The US drone strike that killed dreaded al-Qaeda-linked terrorist Ilyas Kashmiri in Pakistans restive tribal belt has also eliminated top Taliban commander Amir Hamza,the local media reported.
Kashmiri,a key suspect in the Mumbai attacks,and Hamza were among nine militants killed in the drone strike in Laman village,20 km from Wana,one of the main towns of South Waziristan tribal agency on Friday night. Three other militants were injured in the attack.
Witnesses reportedly saw the bodies of the militants killed in the drone strike lying in an apple orchard on Saturday morning. Local residents buried the bodies in a graveyard in the same area.
Hamza,a resident of Wana, was commander of the Mullah Nazir faction of the Taliban,reports said. Mullah Nazir has an agreement with the government and many Punjabi Taliban fighters are believed to be living in Wana and surrounding areas that are controlled by his group,the reports said.
The US recently gave Pakistan time till July the month when NATO and allied forces will begin withdrawing from Afghanistan to launch a military offensive in North Waziristan tribal region and capture five most wanted al-Qaeda and Taliban leaders,including Kashmiri,Mullah Omar and Ayman al-Zawahiri. The other terrorists on the US list Sirajuddin Haqqani and Atia Abdur Rehman.
Reports have said the US and Pakistan had formed joint intelligence teams to track these terrorists. According to security sources,Kashmiri and other senior militant leaders had recently arrived in Waziristan from Khyber tribal region.
Meanwhile,Pakistans interior minister said on Sunday that he was 98 per cent sure senior Kashmiri was killed in the US drone strike near the Afghan border. US officials in Washington were sceptical over reports that Kashmiri,seen as one of the worlds most dangerous militants,was dead.
A US National Security official said he could not confirm that he had been killed and another US official said it was doubtful. All ground intelligence shows that he is dead. What I can say is there is a 98 per cent chance he is dead, Interior Minister Rehman Malik told Reuters. Since we do not have the body. We do not have DNA we need to confirm. This is the substantive evidence we are looking for.
That may not be possible since it is very difficult for Pakistani security forces to get to areas like South Waziristan where intelligence officials said Kashmiri was killed by the US drone strike.