US drone strikes killed a prominent warlord who had sent insurgents to fight in Afghanistan as well as nine other militants in Pakistan’s tribal belt, local officials said today.
Mullah Nazir was the main militant commander in South Waziristan, part of the tribal zone where militants linked to the Taliban and Al-Qaeda have bases. He is one of the highest-profile drone victims in recent years.
Pakistani officials said a US drone fired two missiles at his vehicle in the Sar Kanda area of Birmil in South Waziristan, and five of his loyalists, including two senior deputies, were also killed.
“Mullah Nazir and five associates died on the spot,” one of the officials said.
The official said the attack occurred at 10.35pm on Wednesday but that it took time to confirm the reports from such a far-flung and mountainous area along the Afghan border.
Another Pakistani official said Nazir and his fighters were targeted as they prepared to swap vehicles when their pick-up encountered a mechanical fault.
Two of his influential deputies, Atta Ullah and Rafey Khan, were among those killed, the official added.
Local residents later said that funeral prayers were said for Nazir and his associates around 10 kilometres west of Wana, the main town in South Waziristan, and markets and shops closed. In the neighbouring district of North Waziristan, two more missiles fired from a US drone killed four other militants today but their identities were not immediately known, other Pakistani security officials said.
Although Nazir’s fighters have long been targeted by US drone strikes, he reached a peace deal with Washington’s ally Islamabad in 2007 and had testy relations with the Pakistani Taliban, who are fighting a domestic insurgency.
He was wounded in a suicide attack in South Waziristan on November 29 and had survived previous attempts on his life.
Nazir was understood to be close to the Qaeda-linked Haqqani network, a faction of the Afghan Taliban. (AFP)