ISLAMABAD: US missiles on Thursday killed al Qaeda's chief in Pakistan, one of the Americans' main targets and wanted for attacks that killed scores of people, officials said.
Badr Mansoor, who reputedly sent fighters to Afghanistan and ran a training camp in North Waziristan, was killed in a pre-dawn drone strike near the Afghan border, Pakistani officials and a member of his group told AFP.
“He died in the missile attacks overnight in Miramshah. His death is a major blow to al Qaeda's abilities to strike in Pakistan,” a senior Pakistani official told AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity. His death was confirmed by one of his loyalists.
“Badr Mansoor was killed in the missile attack,” a militant among his group confirmed by telephone.
Intelligence officials in Miramshah, the main town of North Waziristan, said Mansoor had been killed, but other Pakistani officials were divided.
“We're not sure. We cannot give confirmation just like that,” one of them told AFP on condition of anonymity.
Four militants were reported killed in the pre-dawn drone strike, which targeted a compound in Miranshah, the main town of North Waziristan.
The senior Pakistani intelligence official described Mansoor as the “de facto leader of al Qaeda in Pakistan” after his predecessor, Ilyas Kashmiri, was reported killed in a drone strike last June.
Unlike Kashmiri, who had a $5 million bounty on his head, Mansoor is not listed on the US State Department Rewards for Justice list.
There was no immediate confirmation of his death from the United States. But one Western counter-terrorism expert described Mansoor as the local chief of al Qaeda and one of the Americans' chief targets in Pakistan.
“If it's true, this is very good news for the anti-terrorism fight, and this was very important for both the US and Pakistan,” the official said.
He called Mansoor al Qaeda's go-between with Pakistan's umbrella Taliban movement and a member of al Qaeda's leadership shura in Pakistan.
Officials said Mansoor was responsible for attacks in Karachi and on the minority Ahmadi community that killed nearly 100 people in Lahore in May 2010.
Aged about 40 and from Dera Ghazi Khan in Punjab province, he moved to Miramshah several years ago to set up his own training camp.
“Western officials believed he was involved in sending fighters to Afghanistan,” the senior Pakistani official told AFP.