US drone strike kills Haqqani cousin in Pakistan: officials

A US drone fired two missiles into a vehicle in Qutabkhel village in North Waziristan tribal district on Tuesday, killing four militants."Afghan Taliban commander Saifullah travelled to the region from Afghanistan three days ago and was killed in yesterday's US missile strike," a senior security official in the area told AFP.

The information was based on intelligence intercepts, the official said.He described Saifullah as the first cousin of Sirajuddin Haqqani, who runs the Haqqani network created by his father, Afghan warlord Jalaluddin Haqqani.

The network is based in North Waziristan, a known hub of Taliban and Al-Qaeda linked militants just across the border from Afghanistan.

The group is blamed for fuelling the nine-year insurgency in Afghanistan; attacking US-led NATO troops and working to destabilise the Western-backed government of Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

Another Pakistani security official confirmed Saifullah's death.A sharp increase in US drone attacks targeting militants in North Waziristan has killed 80 suspected fighters since September 3.

Officials in Washington say the drone strikes are a vital tool to protect foreign troops in Afghanistan and have killed a number of high-value targets including Pakistani Taliban chief Baitullah Mehsud in 2009.

The United States considers Pakistan's semi-autonomous tribal belt a global headquarters of Al-Qaeda and the most dangerous terrain on Earth.

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