A suspected US drone strike on an Islamic seminary in northwestern Pakistan killed a senior member of the Taliban-linked Haqqani network early on Thursday,Pakistani and Afghan sources said.
It was the first drone strike in the nuclear-armed nation since Pakistani Taliban chief Hakimullah Mehsud was killed on November 1 in an attack which prompted a fierce power struggle within the fragmented insurgency.
Police officer Fareed Khan said the unmanned aircraft fired three rockets at the madrassa in the Hangu district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa just before sunrise.
A source with Afghanistans National Directorate of Security intelligence agency said in Kabul the dead included Maulvi Ahmad Jan,an adviser to Sirajuddin Haqqani,the leader of Taliban-linked Haqqani network.
A Pakistani intelligence source told Reuters that Sirajuddin Haqqani was spotted at the same seminary two days earlier.
Taliban sources also confirmed his death but the Haqqani network itself was not immediately available for comment.
The group is one of the main enemies of US-led forces in neighbouring Afghanistan,frequently launching attacks on foreign troops from mountainous hideouts in Pakistans lawless North Waziristan region. But it has been under considerable strain this month since its chief financier,Nasiruddin Haqqani,was shot dead in Islamabad on November 11.
Pakistan publicly opposes US drone strikes,saying they kill too many civilians and violate its sovereignty,although in private officials admit the government broadly supports them.
The attack took place a day after Pakistans foreign policy chief Sartaj Aziz was quoted as saying that the US had promised not to conduct drone strikes while the government tries to engage the Taliban in peace talks.