White House Press Secretary Jay Carney speaks to reporters in the briefing room of the White House in Washington.—Photo by Reuters
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney speaks to reporters in the briefing room of the White House in Washington.—Photo by Reuters

WASHINGTON: A week after President Barack Obama cracked the lid of secrecy on his drone war, the United States refused Wednesday to confirm it had killed a top Pakistani Taliban leader in an airborne attack.

Pakistani security and intelligence sources said that Waliur Rehman, deputy leader of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) had perished in an American drone strike, along with at least five other people, in North Waziristan.

But senior officials in Washington stuck to their normal practice of declining to provide details of US operations, and only hinted that Rehman, wanted for attacks on Americans and Pakistanis, had been killed.

The attack appeared to be the first known US drone strike since Obama's speech last week laying out new criteria for the covert use of unmanned aerial vehicles in strikes against terror suspects and militants.

“We are not in a position to confirm the reports of Waliur Rehman's death,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said.

“If those reports were true, or prove to be true, it's worth noting that his demise would deprive the TTP of its second-in-command and chief military strategist,” Carney said.

Rehman is also wanted in connection with attacks on US and Nato personnel across the Afghan border and for involvement in the attack on American citizens in Khost, Afghanistan on December 30, 2009.

That strike, though Carney did not describe it in detail, was a dark day in CIA history, when seven counter-terrorism agents and security contractors were killed in a suicide bombing inside a US base.

Carney would not confirm whether the attack on Rehman satisfied the new criteria for drone strikes established by Obama last week during a speech that aimed to recast the country's decade-long battle against terrorism.

In the speech, Obama said lethal force would only be used to “prevent or stop attacks against US persons,” when capture is not feasible and if a target poses a “continuing, imminent threat” to Americans.

Carney pointed to a clause in Obama's remarks in which he said that in the “Afghan war theater” Washington must support its troops until the Nato withdrawal is complete in 2014.

He appeared to be making a case that Rehman's killing may have satisfied the new guidelines because he may have posed a direct and imminent threat to US troops across the border in Afghanistan.

The president said in his speech that strikes would continue against “high value Al-Qaeda targets, but also against forces that are massing to support attacks on coalition forces.”A CIA spokesman also declined to confirm Rehman's death.

Carney dismissed the idea that keeping reporters in the dark about the reported attack conflicted with Obama's pledge for more transparency over the drone war. He said the speech at the National Defense University last week contained an “extraordinary amount of information.” “It does not mean that we are going to discuss specific counter-terror operations,” Carney said.

Security, tribal and intelligence officials told AFP in Pakistan that Rehman, who had a $5 million US government bounty on his head, was the target of the strike and was killed.

Pakistani security officials said the others killed in the attack were TTP cadres, including two local-level commanders. There were no initial reports of civilian casualties.

According to Britain's Bureau of Investigative Journalism, CIA drone attacks targeting suspected Al-Qaeda and Taliban militants in Pakistan have killed up to 3,587 people since 2004, including as many as 884 civilians.

The frequency of drone strikes in Pakistan has tailed off in recent months, with the previous one coming on April 17.

Updated May 31, 2013 05:46am

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Comments (11) (Closed)


HNY2013
May 30, 2013 03:09am
Does not the Pak govt want TTP leaders to be killed?
Goldy
May 30, 2013 03:29am
"Pakistani jets bombed militant hideouts in Central Kurram Agency on Thursday, killing at least 17 militants and injuring several others." So killing by pak jets is RIGHT but by drones is WRONG?????
Samir
May 30, 2013 04:09am
Thank you USA for killing those terrorist maniac who are responsible killing thousand of Pakistani man, women, and children they have a strong support from newly elected government of nawaz sharif
Riaz Ahmad
May 30, 2013 04:26am
Let us say, when US talks about transparency, everything remains none transparent except when it suits US convenience to lift the lid momentarily to let the steam out. In other words, US transparency is bullshit to baffle brain.
pathanoo
May 30, 2013 04:51am
Good Job Drones. Keep up the Good Work. One less murdering terrorist for Pakistan to fear. Oh! You are very Welcome.
raheem
May 30, 2013 05:18am
good riddance! lets keep at it till this filth is removed completely!
Khalid
May 30, 2013 05:20am
this filth is so deep it will take generations! such is the disgraced state of affairs.
chris
May 30, 2013 10:40am
Pakistan has wasted billions of dollars in military aid on ballistic missiles and nukes. These won't fight terrorist bombers in fact most don't believe Pakistan is capable of protecting their nukes.
Baber
May 30, 2013 02:24pm
Chris, The only country in history to use an atom bomb is the US. Further, I am sure you are aware that an US Air Force pilot accidentally flew across the US in a plane that had a nuclear device. Perhaps it's time you shed this holier than thou attitude. Pak's nukes are safe!
Torontonian Desi
May 30, 2013 03:36pm
Dude, you fail to see the point. These are American drones, and the beef between US and Pakistan is that it's a direct violation of the sovereignty of Pakistan, as these drones are hovering over Pakistani air space, and attacking targets on Pakistani soil, without our consent, and the Pakistani administration and public strictly resent this. Had these been Pakistani drones, of course, there would be no fuss over their legitimacy. Having said that though, I firmly believe that the previous administration had willingly allowed the CIA to conduct these drone strikes over our air space. On camera, they vehemently opposed them, but on paper, the Pak govt. always backed these strikes. But that's a separate, inside matter.
citizen
May 30, 2013 04:24pm
If the Pakistani state takes action that is because it is within its sovereign right to maintain law and order but the US drones infringes on that sovereignty and sets a very bad precedence for the future of state relations. So it is not just a simple matter of killing by one way or the other.