PESHAWAR / MIRAMSHAH, Jan 3: Militant ‘commander’ Maulvi Nazir was among 12 people killed in two drone attacks, one in South Waziristan and the other in the North on Wednesday night and Thursday morning.
According to a security official, Maulvi Nazir, 39, perceived to be pro-government because he had signed a peace deal with the authorities in 2007, was killed along with his five guards when a missile hit his vehicle while he was going to Wana from Birmal in South Waziristan on Wednesday night.
Maulvi Nazir’s key aide Rata Khan was among the other militants killed when the vehicle was attacked near Angoor Adda on the Afghan border, the official said.
In North Waziristan, six militants, a close associate of the banned Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan’s chief Hakimullah Mehsud among them, were killed in a drone attack in Mirali tehsil on Thursday.
According to sources, unmanned aircraft fired two missiles at about 9am on a car carrying Shah Faisal and other militants in Mubarak Shahi, some 20km east of Miramshah. Two others killed in the attack were identified as Israr and Lateef.
Maulvi Nazir had survived a suicide bombing in November. The TTP, the umbrella organisation of Pakistani militant groups, denied its involvement, but Nazir, under pressure from the government, ordered the expulsion of Mehsud tribesmen from Wana. The TTP leadership comes from the Mehsud tribe.
He had entered into a peace agreement with the government after his group expelled militants of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, led then by Tahir Uldashev, in 2007 from the area.
Nazir’s fighters avoided attacking government and security forces’ installations in the tribal region and cooperated with the local administration, an official said.
He had survived two drone strikes in the past and two attempts to assassinate him through roadside bombings by local militant leaders who wanted to settle score with him for expelling them for their support to Uzbek militants. His younger brother, Hazrat Omar, had also been killed in a drone attack.
His death will certainly not please the authorities who have been relying on pro-government militant leaders to keep anti-state elements at bay and it could also spell trouble for the government if the TTP or affiliated militants try to return to the region.
But the militant leader from Ahmadzai Wazir tribe regularly sent out fighters to fight the US-led coalition forces in Afghanistan.
SHELLING: Helicopter gunships pounded several areas in North Waziristan tribal agency on Thursday, killing three people and injuring four others.
Dozens of families fled the area after several houses were damaged by shelling on Machas camp.
The administration imposed a curfew in the region for the second day and launched a search operation after a security man and a civilian were killed and four personnel injured in a roadside bomb attack on a vehicle of the Frontier Works Organisation.
Several houses were destroyed in the shelling by helicopters in areas where militants were suspected to be hiding. The victims included a woman.
Local tribal elders tried to negotiate with the authorities but the administration rejected their move.
Agencies add: The funeral of Nazir and his associates was held in Angoor Adda and markets and shops remained closed.
Residents in Angoor Adda and Wana said mosque loudspeakers were used to announce Nazir’s death. A local man, Ajaz Khan, said over 5,000 people attended the funeral. Ahmed Yar, who attended the funeral, said Nazir’s body was badly burnt and his face unrecognisable.
Officials said an unmanned US aircraft fired two missiles at his vehicle in the Sar Kanda area and his two senior deputies were among those killed along with him.
The attack took place at about 10.35pm on Wednesday, an official said.
Another official said Nazir was attacked as he prepared to swap vehicles after his pick-up developed a mechanical fault.
Maulvi Nazir was understood to be close to the Al Qaeda-linked Haqqani network, a faction of the Afghan Taliban.He was injured in the suicide attack in South Waziristan on Nov 29 when he was arriving at an office where he used to meet local people and hear their complaints.
Security officials were locked in talks to assess the impact of Nazir’s death. “There will be a setback in a way. He was one of those who were keeping his area under effective control and preventing the TTP from operating there,” an official said.
Some officials said eight people had been killed along with Nazir.
The military is believed to have struck a non-aggression pact with Nazir ahead of its 2009 operation against militants in South Waziristan.
He outraged many Pakistanis in June when he announced that he would not allow any polio vaccinations in territory under his control until the US stopped drone attacks in the region.
Nazir had property in both Pakistan and Afghanistan. He earlier used to be a member of the Hizb-i-Islami, an Afghan militant group.
Nazir’s group quickly appointed his close aide Bawal Khan as a replacement, according to one of his aides. But a Reuters report named the successor as Salahuddin Ayubi.