PESHAWAR: A drone strike in the North Waziristan tribal region in the early hours of Friday killed a senior commander of the Haqqani network, intelligence officials said.
Mullah Sangeen Zadran, blacklisted as a terrorist by the United Nations and United States, was among six fighters killed in a drone strike in a Haqqani stronghold area of North Waziristan agency. Zadran was wanted for kidnappings and sending hundreds of foreign fighters into Afghanistan.
The United States has blamed the Haqqani network, a faction of the Taliban waging a 12-year insurgency in Afghanistan, for a series of high-profile attacks in recent years.
Two announcements made by mosque loudspeaker in Miranshah, the main town in North Waziristan, said his funeral would take place at 3pm on Friday.
Two Pakistani intelligence officials, who spoke to news agency AFP on condition of anonymity, confirmed his death and said an Arab fighter was also among the dead.
Pakistani officials said the US drone fired two missiles, destroying a compound overnight in Dargah Mandi, a Haqqani stronghold about 10 kilometres from Miranshah.
Earlier reports had suggested six suspected militants were killed and three others wounded in the missile strike in the remote semiautonomous tribal area. Reports now confirm Zadran was among the dead.
In 2011, the US State Department described Zardan as shadow governor of Paktika, one of the most volatile Afghan provinces on the Pakistani border and as a lieutenant of Haqqani leader Sirajuddin Haqqani.
It alleged Zadran led fighters in attacks across southeastern Afghanistan, and was believed to have planned and coordinated the movement of hundreds of foreign fighters into Afghanistan.
He was also connected to roadside bombings and was believed to have orchestrated the kidnappings of Afghans and foreigners in the border region between Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs condemned the attack, calling it a violation of the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
The government “has consistently maintained that drone strikes are counter-productive, entail loss of innocent civilian lives and have human rights and humanitarian implications”, the Foreign Office said in a statement hours after the attack.
The Pakistani government formally protests against US drone strikes as a violation of sovereignty, but Washington views them as a vital tool in the fight against al Qaeda and the Afghan Taliban.
US drone missiles have targeted areas near the Afghan border, including inside the North Waziristan tribal region, the main stronghold for various militant groups, some of which are said to be aligned with al Qaeda and the Afghan Taliban since 2004.
There has been a noticeable decline in the number of US drone strikes in Pakistan. According to an AFP tally there were 101 attacks in 2010, killing more than 670 people compared to 18 so far this year killing just over 100 people.