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Suspected US Drone Strike Targets Key Pakistani Taliban Commander

VOA News October 27, 2011

Pakistani intelligence officials say a suspected U.S. drone strike has killed five militants linked to a top Taliban commander in Pakistan's northwest tribal region.

The officials said the unmanned aircraft fired missiles Thursday at a vehicle in the town of Azam Warsak in South Waziristan, killing the younger brother of Taliban commander Maulvi Nazir.

Four other militants were also killed, including another relative of Nazir. Pakistani security officials say at least two other militants were wounded in the drone strike.

Nazir is believed to be one of the most powerful militant commanders in Pakistan's tribal region. His Taliban fighters are said to cross the border to attack U.S. and NATO troops in neighboring Afghanistan.

Hours later on Thursday, a second drone strike was reported in the tribal region.

Pakistani intelligence officials say a U.S. unmanned aircraft fired missiles at a compound in North Waziristan, killing at least four militants along the Afghan border. The identities of those killed were not immediately known.

In June, missile strikes killed 15 militants believed to be allied with Maulvi Nazir, and in May his followers threatened to carry out revenge attacks against Pakistan and the United States for the U.S. killing of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden.

Nazir's group is reportedly not opposed to the Pakistani state and has struck deals with the government during past military offensives against other Taliban factions in South Waziristan.

The United States does not publicly acknowledge the use of drone strikes against Taliban and al-Qaida-linked militants in Pakistan's northwest. Pakistani officials have protested the attacks as a violation of the country's sovereignty.

On Thursday, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton renewed her call for Pakistan to crack down on militant safe havens on its soil.

Clinton said that during last week's trip to Pakistan she urged leaders to act against the militant Haqqani network, explaining that trying to distinguish between so-called "good terrorists and bad terrorists is ultimately self-defeating and dangerous." The secretary made the comments during a congressional hearing in Washington on Thursday.

U.S. officials have accused Pakistan's military spy agency, the ISI, of providing support to the al-Qaida-linked Haqqani network, which has launched attacks against U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan.

A top U.S. commander in Afghanistan said Thursday that cross-border communications with Pakistan's military have improved after severely deteriorating following the U.S. raid which killed Osama bin Laden in Pakistan on May 2.

But Lieutenant General Curtis Scaparrotti also told reporters at the Pentagon Thursday that there have been instances in which Pakistani paramilitary forces "looked the other way" when insurgents fired across the border at U.S. and Afghan troops.

In other violence Thursday, intelligence officials say a roadside bomb killed two Pakistani soldiers in the Shakai area of South Waziristan.

And in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar, police say a bomb, packed in an oil canister, exploded in a popular market Thursday, wounding at least seven people.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and AFP.

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