US strike kills Haqqani commander in Pakistan


AFP

MIRANSHAH, Pakistan – A US drone strike on Thursday killed a logistics commander in the Al-Qaeda-linked Haqqani network and three other militants in northwest Pakistan near the Afghan border, officials said.


A US drone strike has killed a commander in the Al-Qaeda-linked Haqqani network and three other militants (AFP/File, Bonny Schoonakker)

Covert CIA drones are the United States’ chief weapon against Taliban and Al-Qaeda militants who use Pakistan’s lawless tribal areas as launchpads for attacking US troops in Afghanistan and plotting attacks on the West.

The unmanned aircraft fired two missiles at a compound in Dandey Darpakhel village, about seven kilometres (four miles) north of Miranshah, the main town in North Waziristan tribal district.

“Jamil Haqqani, an important Afghan commander of Haqqani network was the target and was killed,” a Pakistani security official told AFP on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to talk to the media.

A Pakistani intelligence official in Miranshah confirmed the killing and said Jamil was in his thirties.

“He was working as a coordinator of the Haqqani network in North Waziristan,” the official said.

The official said the three other people killed in the strike were Haqqani’s fighters, guarding the commander in the compound.

Jamil is understood to have been responsible for logistics in North Waziristan, where the group’s overall leadership is believed to be based.

Officials said he was not a relative of Jalaluddin, the Afghan warlord who founded the Taliban faction, or his son Sirajuddin who now runs the network but that he was “very close to the top commanders including Sirajuddin”.

The United States blames the Haqqanis for fuelling the 10-year insurgency in Afghanistan; attacking US-led NATO troops and working to destabilise the Western-backed government of Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

Washington last month significantly stepped up demands on Islamabad to take action against the network and cut alleged ties to the group.

US missiles have destroyed dozens of other Haqqani network compounds and a sprawling madrassa in 2008, killing dozens of fighters, officials say.

Mohammed Haqqani, brother of Sirajuddin, was killed in a US drone attack in Dandey Darpakhel, the same North Waziristan village as Thursday’s strike, in February 2010.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said this week the United States is waging “war” in Pakistan against militants, referring to the covert CIA campaign that the US government declines to discuss publicly.

Speaking at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, the former CIA director said the relationship between Washington and ally Islamabad was “complicated”.

“And admittedly, there are a lot of reasons for that. We are fighting a war in their country,” Panetta said.

Around 30 US drone strikes have been reported in Pakistan since Navy SEALs found and killed Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden near the country’s top military academy in Abbottabad, close to the capital, on May 2.

Last month, the outgoing top US military officer, Admiral Mike Mullen, called the Haqqani network a “veritable arm” of Pakistan’s ISI intelligence agency and accused Pakistan of supporting attacks on US targets in Afghanistan.

Islamabad officially denies any support for Haqqani activities, but has nurtured Pashtun warlords for decades as a way of influencing events across the border and offsetting the might of arch-rival India.

The Pakistani military says it is too over-stretched fighting local Taliban to acquiesce to American demands to launch an offensive against the Haqqanis, a battle that not all observers think the Pakistani military would win.

But the humiliation of the bin Laden raid is thought to have contributed to debate within the military about the merits of traditional support for jihadi groups.

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