US strike kills Taliban chief's wife

Pakistani intelligence officials say three others also died in drone attack

 
The missile struck the house of Malik Ikramuddin, located near Makeen in South Waziristan Agency, at 12.45 am local time, officials were quoted by TV news channels as saying.

One of the officials said it was not clear whether Mehsud himself was in the house at the time of the attack. The Tehrik-e-Taliban chief used to visit the house very often.

Pakistani intelligence and army officials were quoted as saying that the missile strike has killed Ikramuddin’s daughter, the second wife of Mehsud. They said three other men also died in the incident. Mehsud’s associates would not confirm the report, but said a woman was among the dead. Ikramuddin himself escaped unhurt, witnesses claimed.

Wednesday’s attack was the latest in a series by the US predator drones which have been hunting for Mehsud and other top Taliban and al-Qaeda operatives in the tribal region.

Mehsud has been blamed by the Pakistani authorities for the assassination of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto and the army has amassed a huge force to launch an offensive on his stronghold in Waziristan.

Mehsud carries a US $ 5-million bounty on his head offered by the US. He is wanted for masterminding several terror attacks.

Pakistan publicly opposes these attacks, describing them as counter-productive for the war on terror and a violation of its sovereignty. However, analysts believe there is a tacit understanding between the US and Pakistan on the attacks.

“Our position has been very clear that drone attacks are a violation of Pakistani sovereignty and differences exist between us and the Americans on this issue,” Foreign Office spokesman Abdul Basit told reporters soon after Wednesday’s missile strike. The US believes the attacks have been fruitful in weakening the al-Qaeda leadership but Pakistan feels that the “collateral damage” or killing of innocent people in such strikes could have a long term adverse impact on the war on terror, Basit said. The last such strike took place in the Ladha area of South Waziristan Agency on July 17 when a US drone fired two missiles at the home of militant commander Abdullah Shah Mehsud, killing him.

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