Senior Pakistani Taliban official killed in US drone attack
Pakistan expressed “serious” concern over a US drone attack yesterday in North Waziristan near the Afghan border.
Four suspected militants, including the No. 2 commander of the Pakistani Taliban Waliur Rehman was reportedly killed when missiles fired by the US drone destroyed a house in a village near Miranshah, the main town of the tribal district. However the militant group has denied the killing Rehman.
A foreign ministry statement said the government had “serious concerns” over the attack.
“The Government of Pakistan has consistently maintained that the drone strikes are counter-productive, entail loss of innocent civilian lives, have human rights and humanitarian implications and violate the principles of national sovereignty, territorial integrity and international law,” the statement said.
The drone strike came as the newly elected assembly of northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province held its inaugural session in the provincial capital, Peshawar.
A new governing coalition led by the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), a strong opponent of US drone campaign, is set to assume control in the province in the coming days.
Yesterday’s drone strike was the first after May 11 general election in the country, in which Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) won comfortable majority in National Assembly, ensuring election of its chief Nawaz Sharif by the assembly on June 5 as prime minister.
During the election campaign, Sharif expressed the confidence that he would be able to convince the US to halt drone attacks on Pakistani territory.
Earlier, media reports said the death of Rehman, if confirmed, would be a strong blow to the extremist group responsible for hundreds of bombings and shootings across the country.
The United States has a $5 million bounty out on Rehman, who Washington has accused of involvement in the 2009 suicide attack on a US base in Afghanistan that killed seven Americans working for the CIA.
Two of the officials said their informants in the field saw Rehman’s body, while a third said intelligence authorities had intercepted communications between militants saying Rehman had been killed. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief the media.
A spokesman for the Pakistani Taliban, however, denied the reports.
“This appears to me to be false news. I don’t have any such information,” said Ahsanullah Ahsan, speaking to The Associated Press by telephone from an undisclosed location.
Most of North Waziristan is under militant control, and journalists do not have access to the rugged region near the Afghan border, making it difficult to independently confirm such incidents.
The missile attack was the first since Pakistan’s landmark elections on May 11 in which the American drone program was a hotly debated topic.
It was also the first strike in Pakistan since President Barack Obama’s speech last Thursday during which he discussed more restrictive rules he was implementing on the use of the controversial drones in places such as Pakistan and Yemen.