Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Pakistani Taliban's second-in-command among 5 killed in US drone strike

Wali ur-Rehman, center, the deputy leader of the Pakistani Taliban, in 2011.
LONDON (NYT) — A suspected American drone strike killed the deputy leader of the Pakistani Taliban early Wednesday, two Pakistani officials said, dealing a potentially serious blow to an insurgency that has killed thousands of people in Pakistan and encouraged Islamist attacks in the United States.

The deputy leader, Wali ur-Rehman, was among five people killed when missiles fired from a drone struck a house just outside Miram Shah, the main town in the tribal district of North Waziristan, two Pakistani security officials said.

A Taliban commander, speaking in a telephone interview on the condition of anonymity, confirmed that Mr. Rehman, who had a $5 million United States bounty on his head, had been killed.

The official Taliban spokesman, however, said he had no information on the strike. “I am not denying nor confirming it,” the spokesman, Ehsanullah Ehsan, said in a telephone interview from an undisclosed location. [...]

A tribal administration official in North Waziristan said that militants had used the targeted compound for meetings and dining. “Half of the compound has been destroyed,” he said, adding that the death toll may increase.

From a mountainous district of South Waziristan, Mr. Rehman was responsible for dozens of suicide attacks on Pakistani civilians and guerrilla assaults on Pakistani army troops. He also organized attacks on NATO troops across the border in Afghanistan, which helped bring him onto America’s list of most-wanted.

In 2010 the United States government listed Mr. Rehman as a “specially designated global terrorist” and offered a $5 million reward for information leading to his arrest.

Over the past year, Mr. Rehman developed serious differences with the Taliban leader, Hakimullah Mehsud, who is also wanted by the United States. Militant sources said the two men disagreed over the future direction of the Taliban insurgency.

Also killed in Wednesday’s strike were two Uzbek militants, officials said.