A US drone strike killed the deputy chief of the Pakistani Taliban Wednesday 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 when an unmanned US drone fired two missiles on a house in North Waziristan district early Wednesday.
Pakistani security sources told AFP that Rehman, who had a US$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. It was the first known drone strike since that announcement.
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.
The United States refused to confirm that it had killed Rehman, despite Obama’s promise of more transparency on the drone war.
Washington says drone strikes have been an effective tool in wiping out important Taliban and Al-Qaeda figures in the militant-infested badlands along the Afghan border.
But they have been unpopular in Pakistan, where the government publicly denounces them as illegal and a violation of sovereignty.
Obama last week defended the legality of the CIA-run strikes, which began in Pakistan in 2004 and 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.