News Column

US Drone Strike Kills Pakistani Taliban Deputy Leader

May 29, 2013

Yasir Ali Mansuri and Sajjad Malik, dpa

A US drone strike in north-western Pakistan on Wednesday killed the deputy head of the local Taliban, along with five other militants, officials said.

Senior Taliban commander Wali ur Rehman was killed when two missiles struck a house just outside Miranshah, the main town of North Waziristan, the tribal district bordering Afghanistan.

"(Rehman) was among the six people killed in the pre-dawn strike," an intelligence official said on condition of anonymity.

Rehman was leading Taliban operations in the adjacent South Waziristan district. The US offered a reward of 5 million dollars for his capture for allegedly participating in attacks on US and NATO troops deployed in Afghanistan.

"He ... is wanted in connection with his involvement in the murder of seven American citizens on December 30, 2009, at Forward Operating Base Chapman in Khost, Afghanistan," the US Reward for Justice programme website said.

The US however declined to confirm whether Rehman had been killed.

"If those reports were true, or prove to be true, it's worth noting that his demise would deprive the TTP, Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, of its second-in-command and chief military strategist," White House spokesman Jay Carney said in Washington.

He noted that despite President Barack Obama's outlining of a more transparent US drone strategy last week, the US government would not "be able to discuss the details of every counterterrorism operation."

The Pakistani Taliban did not immediately comment.

Independent confirmation of drone strikes is not possible because the territory is largely off-limits to journalists.

Drone attacks are strongly opposed by Pakistan as a violation of its sovereignty.

Islamabad expressed "serious concerns" about the attack.

It is feared that Rehman's death may now hamper peace moves. He appeared in a video message posted in December, in which he offered conditional peace talks to the outgoing government.

The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), which favours peace talks with the Taliban, won the general election on May 11.

PML-N leader Nawaz Sharif said during the elections he was in touch with leading clerics about talks with the Taliban, the spokesman of Fazal ur Rehman, head of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazal (JUI-F) religious political bloc, told dpa.

"He (Sharif) has agreed with (Rehman) that a jirga (council of tribal elders) should be convened to end bloodshed in the country," Jan Achakzai said. "The date and place of holding jirga have not been decided so far."

Also on Wednesday, the 124-seat Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) provincial assembly held its first session.

The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party of cricketer-turned-political Imran Khan came first in the regional vote on May 11, with 55 seats for itself and its allies.

The PTI, which also favours talks with the Taliban, strongly opposes the US drone strikes. Khan led a mass protest march to the Waziristan border in October to condemn the attacks and their collateral damage.

Ben Emmerson, UN special rapporteur on human rights and counterterrorism, earlier this year said at least 330 drone strikes inside Pakistan since 2004 had killed at least 2,200 people, including at least 400 civilians, citing statistics compiled by Pakistan's Foreign Ministry.

A higher court in Peshawar, capital of KPK province, which adjoins the tribal region, on May 9 ruled US drone strikes a war crime and ordered the Pakistani government to work towards halting them and to shoot down the unmanned aircraft if needed.



Source: Copyright 2013 dpa Deutsche Presse-Agentur GmbH


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