Pakistani pro-government warlord Mullah Nazir and his deputy were among 10 Taliban fighters killed today in fresh wave of US drone strikes in the country's restive Waziristan tribal region.
Nazir, his deputy Ratta Khan and four 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.
He was the main militant commander in South Waziristan near the Pak-Afghan border considered to be the base for al-Qaeda, the Taliban and other Islamist foreign militants. Nazir was also a powerful elder of the Waziri tribe and understood to be close to the al-Qaeda-linked Haqqani network.
Nazir had reached a peace deal with the Pakistan military in 2007 under which he had promised not to indulge in militant activities on the Pakistani soil. But the Americans viewed him as anti-US, blaming him for sending his fighters to attack its forces in Afghanistan.
Officials said Nazir was heading to Wana, the main town of South Waziristan, when his vehicle was attacked.
Hours after the attack that killed Nazir, four more Taliban fighters were killed in a US drone strike in adjacent North Waziristan Agency.
Taliban commander Faisal Khan and two Uzbek fighters were among the dead, sources said.
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.
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.
Nazir's group had 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.
Security analysts said the killing of Nazir could prompt his fighters to launch attacks on Pakistani security forces.