US drones kill top Pakistani militant leader, Mullah Nazir, nine others

Pakistani pro-government warlord Mullah Nazir and his deputy were among 16 Taliban killed on Thursday in the restive Waziristan tribal region in two separate US drone strikes, the first this year.

Nazir, his deputy Ratta Khan, Commanders Agha Khan Wazir and Allauddin Wazir and nine more militants were killed when a CIA-operated spy plane targeted a vehicle in Angoor Adda area of South Waziristan Agency early this morning. Security officials were quoted by the Pakistani media as saying that Nazir was killed in the strike.

Local Taliban commanders and officials of the political administration too confirmed the killing of Nazir to Dawn News. Officials and tribesmen said Nazir was heading to Wana, the main town of South Waziristan, when his vehicle was attacked.

Residents of Angoor Adda and Wana said announcements about Nazir's death were made on the loudspeakers of mosques.

His funeral was later held at Warsak, local residents said. Mullah Nazir, also known as Maulvi Nazir Wazir, had signed a peace deal with Pakistani security forces in 2007 and was the top militant commander in South Waziristan.

He was considered to be among the "good" Taliban as he preferred attacking US and allied forces in Afghanistan instead of Pakistani troops.

Hours after the attack that killed Nazir, three fighters of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan were killed in a US drone strike in North Waziristan Agency. Commander Faisal Khan and two Uzbek fighters were among the dead.

Earlier reports had said that four militants were killed in this attack. These were the first drone strikes of the New Year.

The US has continued its drone campaign in the tribal belt bordering Afghanistan despite protests from Pakistan, which says the attacks are counter-productive and a violation of its sovereignty.

Security analysts said the killing of Nazir could prompt his fighters to launch attacks on Pakistani security forces. Nazir had differences with the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan led by Hakimullah Mehsud and was injured in a suicide attack in Wana on November 29 that killed seven persons.

Nazir's Wazir tribe expelled members of the Mehsud tribe from Wana and adjoining areas after the suicide attack. In 2007, Nazir led a tribal 'lashkar' or militia and expelled Uzbek fighters from Wana.

But he was suspected of sheltering militants from other countries. He was also accused of training and sheltering Afghan Taliban and sending them across the border to attack US troops.

When Pakistani security forces launched a major offensive in South Waziristan in 2009, Nazir did not side with the Pakistani Taliban.

Nazir's group also formed an alliance with a Taliban faction in North Waziristan led by Hafiz Gul Bahadar.

The two commanders formed the "Shura-e-Mujahideen" and declared Afghan Taliban commander Mullah Omar as their chief.

Nazir and Gul Bahadur were also believed to be close to the Al Qaeda-linked Haqqani network.