A US DRONE strike killed the deputy chief of the Pakistani Taliban today in the country’s lawless tribal northwest, officials said, dealing a major blow to the militant network.
Waliur Rehman, the number two in the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) faction, died along with at least five others in a missile attack from an unmanned US drone in North Waziristan district earlier.
Security sources said that Rehman, who had a $5 million US government bounty on his head, was the target of the strike, which came a week after US President Barack Obama outlined new more restrictive guidelines on drone use.
Officials in several towns, as well as tribal and intelligence sources, confirmed Rehman’s death in the attack in Chashma village near Miranshah, the main town in North Waziristan district, a stronghold of Taliban and Al-Qaeda-linked militants.
File images of Waliur Rehman who was killed along with five others today. (AP Photo/Ishtiaq Mahsud, File)
Washington had accused Rehman of organising attacks against US and NATO forces in Afghanistan and also wanted him in connection with a suicide attack on an American base in Afghanistan in 2009 that killed seven CIA agents.
Rehman had been a key figure in the TTP since its inception in 2007 and was second-in-command of the national hierarchy behind Hakimullah Mehsud, as well as leading the group in South Waziristan.
Drone strikes have been unpopular in Pakistan, where the government publicly denounces them as illegal and a violation of sovereignty. But Washington believes they have been effective in wiping out important Taliban and Al-Qaeda leaders.
Obama last week defended the legality of the CIA-run strikes, which began in Pakistan in 2004 but became more frequent during his presidency. But he outlined new rules for their use.
The guidelines say drone strikes can only be used to prevent imminent attacks, when the capture of a suspect is not feasible and if there is a “near certainty” that civilians will not be killed.
Today’s attack was the first since Pakistan’s May 11 general election, won by the Pakistan Muslim League-N of Nawaz Sharif.