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Missile strike in Pakistan kills Taliban commander: official

Missile strike in Pakistan kills Taliban commander: official

A suspected U.S. missile strike on a militant training camp in Pakistan's tribal belt bordering Afghanistan killed a top Taliban commander and at least 15 other people, officials said Monday.
The attack was the latest in a series on Pakistani soil which have sharply raised tensions between Washington and Islamabad, a key ally in the U.S. campaign against Al-Qaeda and the Taliban.
Officials said the strike in the lawless South Waziristan area on Sunday night killed Haji Omar Khan, a lieutenant of veteran Afghan Taliban chieftain and former anti-Soviet fighter Jalaluddin Haqqani.
"The death toll has gone up to 16 as six more bodies have been recovered from the site. Senior Taliban commander Haji Omar died in the strike," local administration official Mawaz Khan told AFP.
Another government official quoting local sources said up to 20 people were killed, mostly Pakistani Taliban fighters, adding that a team was on its way to the area to investigate.
Khan was active in attacks on U.S.-led and NATO troops across the border in Afghanistan, local residents and security officials said.
He was a cousin of late Taliban commander Nek Mohammed, who was killed in 2004 in one of the first apparent U.S. missile strikes in the region.
"Omar was sending fighters into Afghanistan and commanded them in several outings. He did not have any political affiliations and was linked to Haqqani," a security official said on condition of anonymity.
Sunday's strike was the 12th such incident in the past 10 weeks, all of which have been blamed on U.S.-led coalition forces or CIA drones based in Afghanistan.
Many of them have targeted militants who, like Khan, were close to Haqqani, who is increasingly seen in Washington as one of the prime movers behind the escalating unrest in Afghanistan.
A religious school operated by Haqqani was targeted in another suspected U.S. missile strike last Thursday, killing 11 people.
Haqqani was one of the most prominent Afghan commanders who fought the Soviet Red Army between 1978 and 1989. He subsequently became close to Mullah Omar, the leader of the 1996-2001 Taliban regime in Afghanistan.
The strike came as the New York Times reported that the United States is refraining from using its special forces on Pakistani territory following a Sept. 3 raid that resulted in civilian casualties and vehement protests from Islamabad.
The U.S. military has stepped up attacks on militants in Pakistani territory since a new civilian government came to power in Islamabad in March, and the incidents have become an issue in the U.S. presidential election.
Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari has promised zero tolerance against violations of his country's sovereignty amid the strikes.
According to The New York Times, after the Sept. 3 raid, Pakistani national security adviser Mahmud Ali Durrani made an unannounced visit to Washington and voiced his country's anger in person to top White House officials, including national security adviser Stephen Hadley.
But while ground raids have stopped, attacks by remotely piloted Predator aircraft, which are operated by the Central Intelligence Agency, have increased sharply in the past three months, the report said.


Updated : 2021-02-28 11:08 GMT+08:00