U.S. drone attack targets Pakistani Taliban leader's home, likely killing him

| Saturday, Nov. 2, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

PESHAWAR, Pakistan — An American drone fired missiles on Friday at the residence of Pakistani Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud, a high-level terrorist with a $5 million FBI bounty on his head who is thought to be responsible for the deaths of thousands of people.

It was not immediately clear whether Mehsud was killed in the airstrike in the North Waziristan region. The drone reportedly fired two missiles at the compound and a vehicle used by Mehsud, who has been high on the target list for intelligence forces.

One Pakistani intelligence official, who asked not to be identified because he wasn't authorized to speak with the media, said there were credible reports that Mehsud was in the compound at the time of the strike. There was no immediate official response or confirmation from the Taliban.

Local news reports said four people were killed, including two of Mehsud's bodyguards, and two were wounded in the attack in the Dande Darpa Khel area of North Waziristan, a lawless region near the border with Afghanistan.

The Associated Press cited a senior U.S. intelligence official, two Pakistani intelligence officials and two Taliban commanders, all speaking on condition of anonymity, as saying the Taliban leader was dead. Some reports said his close associate, Tariq Mehsud, also was killed.

A resident of Miram Shah near Dande Darpa Khel who requested anonymity said Mehsud had lived in the compound for the last year. The resident added that a large number of Taliban fighters had cordoned off the compound and were not letting residents into the area, suggesting that someone important had been killed.

Six drones were hovering over the area, he added, preventing Taliban from entering the compound to retrieve the bodies and help the wounded.

Pakistani Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan condemned the drone strikes on local television, calling them an attempt to sabotage proposed peace talks between the government and the Pakistani Taliban.

Mehsud, believed to be in his mid-30s, is among Pakistan's most wanted men. In August 2009, he assumed leadership of the Pakistani Taliban because a drone attack killed the previous leader, his mentor.

Friday's attack happened a day after three terrorists were killed in a drone strike on a rebel compound near Miram Shah.

Journalists and aid organizations are not allowed into the border areas most subject to drone attacks, making independent verification of military and Taliban claims difficult.

U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan have come under fire at home and abroad. Many Pakistanis view them as a violation of national sovereignty, although residents in the tribal area often support them. Watchdog groups Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International late last month accused America of indiscriminately killing Pakistani civilians with its drone program.

In the last week, however, Pakistan's Defense Ministry released written comments in parliament saying just 67 civilians were killed in drone strikes since 2008, compared with 2,160 terrorists, with no civilians killed since the beginning of 2012.

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