August 27, 2009 / 11:04 AM / 10 years ago

US missile strike kills six militants in Pakistan

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WANA, Pakistan, Aug 27 (Reuters) - Two missiles believed to have been fired by a U.S. drone aircraft struck a militant hideout killing six fighters in Pakistan’s South Waziristan tribal region on Thursday, intelligence officials said.

Pakistani Taliban chief Baitullah Mehsud was killed in a similar attack in the same region on Aug. 5.

The missiles struck a fortress-like house used as a hideout near Kaniguram area, some 50 km (30 miles) from South Waziristan’s main town of Wana.

"I saw drones flying over the area and then there were two huge explosions," resident Mohammad Omar told Reuters by telephone.

Thursday’s missile strike was the fourth launched by pilotless U.S. drones this month.

The Taliban had been in denial for weeks about Mehsud’s death, but on Monday two of his aides, Hakimullah Mehsud and Wali-ur-Rehman, confirmed their leader had been killed.

Hakimullah, who led militants in Orakzai, Khyber and Kurram tribal regions, has been picked as the new overall commander of the Pakistani Taliban.

Mehsud was blamed for a wave of suicide attacks across Pakistan since late 2007, including the one that killed former prime minister Benazir Bhutto in December of that year.

Analysts and intelligence officials expect some friction to develop within the Taliban’s leadership as more senior commanders could resent the younger Hakimullah. (Reporting by Hafiz Wazir; Writing by Zeeshan Haider; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore and Jerry Norton)

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