LADDAH, Jan 6: A cousin of the banned Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan’s chief Hakimullah Mehsud was among nine suspected militants killed when US drones attacked compounds in the Bobar area of South Waziristan on Sunday.

According to sources, the drones fired 10 missiles, destroying three compounds in the area close to the Frontier Regions of Tank and Lakki Marwat.

One of the destroyed compounds belonged to Punjabi Taliban leader Qari Imran.

They said the dead included Wali Mohammad Toofan, a cousin of and close aide to Hakimullah Mehsud. Toofan had been recently elevated to head TTP’s ‘Fidai wing’ after its leader Qari Hussain died in a drone strike in Mirali, North Waziristan.

Another victim of Sunday’s drone strike was identified as Sailab.

Most of those killed belonged to the Mehsud tribe.

Meanwhile, security forces resorted to intense mortar shelling on suspected militant positions in Sheen Nari, near Bobar. Helicopter gunships also shelled the locality between 9am and 3pm, the sources said.

AFP adds:  A security official in Miramshah, the main town in North Waziristan, said “at least 12 militants have been killed and several others were wounded” in the attack that took place near the Afghan border.

Local people said that militants had cordoned off the area and were looking for bodies or the injured in the debris.US drone strikes had last week killed Mullah Nazir, the main militant ‘commander’ in South Waziristan.

The covert US drone strikes are criticised by Pakistan as a violation of its sovereignty.