LADDAH: Important militant leaders were among 19 Taliban killed in a drone strike in Paktika province of Afghanistan on Monday night, according to sources.

They said a US drone targeted a compound in Bagheecha area of Gomal district where Taliban fighters, mainly from South Waziristan’s Mahsud offshoots, had gathered for a meeting.

Of the 19 militants killed in the strike, 11 had been associated with the Khan Said Sajna group and eight belonged to the Hakeemullah Mahsud group.

Prominent among the dead were Hussain Ahmad, a commander responsible for handling kidnapped foreigners; Azmi, a former deputy chief of Karachi branch of the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP); Mansoor, Khalid, Abid, Noor Alam and Zubair Baloch, the sources said.

The slain militants also included two Punjabi Taliban, one of them a British national of Pakistani origin.

According to Taliban spokesman Qari Saifullah, Azmi was presently in-charge of Bannu, Dera Ismail Khan, Tank and Lakki Marwat chapters of the TTP.

The sources said that local militants had sneaked into Afghanistan to escape a military operation being conducted in Tank, Gomal, Kulachi, Jandola and other areas of Frontier Region Dera Ismail Khan over the past two weeks.

Published in Dawn, February 4th, 2016

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