KARACHI (AFP) – A US missile strike targeting a top Taliban commander in Pakistan’s northwest killed four mid-level Al-Qaeda operatives, a security official and a militant source said Wednesday.
Monday’s strike in North Waziristan failed to kill Jalaluddin Haqqani or his son, Sirajuddin, accused by Afghan and Western forces of orchestrating the ongoing insurgency across the border in Afghanistan.
Five missiles fired by suspected US drones destroyed a seminary and an underground tunnel built by the Haqqanis in Darpa Dandekhen, near Miranshah, the main town in the troubled Pakistani tribal district, killing 21.
“According to local sources the strike killed four Al-Qaeda operators and some extended family members of Haqqani’s,” a security official told AFP.
A source in Haqqani’s group confirmed the death of four Arabs, identified as Abu Harris, Abu Hamza, Abu Qasim and Abu Musa Alkhyan.
The names are thought to be cover names and neither the security official and militant source would reveal their real identities.
The official said Hamza was believed to be an expert in making roadside bombs, while Harris was looking after the group’s logistics in North and South Waziristan areas.
Missile strikes targeting militants in Pakistan in recent weeks have been blamed on US-led coalition forces or CIA drones based in Afghanistan. Pakistan does not have missile-equipped drones.
US and Afghan officials say Pakistan’s tribal areas are a safe haven for Al-Qaeda and Taliban militants who sneaked into the rugged region after the fall of the Taliban regime in late 2001.
Al-Qaeda chief Osama bin laden and his deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, are widely believed to be hiding in the mountainous region.
Monday’s strike targeted the house or the madrassa established by former Taliban commander Haqqani during the 1978-88 Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, residents said.
Haqqani, who was a close aid to fugitive Taliban leader Mullah Omar, has not been seen since the fall of the hardline regime in Afghanistan in 2001.
He is widely believed to be bed-ridden while his son is the main contact between Afghan and Pakistani Taliban militants based in North Waziristan.
Residents said two pilotless aircraft circled over Dande Darpakhel, three kilometres (about two miles) north of Miranshah, before at least one drone fired several missiles.