A senior militant in the Haqqani network that is tied to the Taliban, was killed by a suspected drone strike by the U.S. while in an Islamic seminary in Pakistan. The strike took place on Thursday, said both Afghan and Pakistani sources.
This was the first U.S. drone strike in Pakistan since November 1 when Hakimullah Mehsud the chief of the Pakistani Taliban was killed. His killing prompted a big power struggle within the now fragmented insurgency.
Fareed Khan a local police officer said the aircraft had fired three of its rockets at the seminary in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s Hangu district just prior to sunrise.
A source with the intelligence agency in Afghanistan said that included amongst the dead was Maulvi Ahmad Jan, who was an advisor to the leader of the Haqqani network Sirajuddin Haqqani.
A source with Pakistani intelligence said that just two days prior to the attack Siradjuddin Haqqani had been seen in the same seminary.
Sources with the Taliban also have confirmed the death of the senior adviser, but the Haqqani network has yet to make any comment.
The Haqqani group is one of the U.S. led forces’ biggest enemies in Afghanistan and often launches attacks against foreign troops from its hideouts in the mountains in the lawless region of North Waziristan, Pakistan.
However, Haqqani has been under great strain in November since Nasiruddin Haqqani its head financier was shot and killed on November 1 in Islamabad. No one has yet claimed responsibility for the shooting.
Washington for some time has called on Pakistan to crack down on Haqqani. At one time Nasiruddin’s father had been an ally of the U.S. during the Afghanistan rebellion against the Soviets.
Publically Pakistan opposed the drone strikes by the U.S., saying they are responsible for killing too many innocent civilians. Although, privately officials admit the government in general supports the strikes.
The majority of drone strikes take place in the North Waziristan area where insurgents from the Taliban are hiding out. The strikes are rare in places that are densely populated like in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
Today’s attack comes only 24 hours after the foreign policy head of Pakistan said the U.S. would not conduct more drone strikes, while his government tried to engage in peace talks with the Taliban.