Officials: U.S. Drone Kills Pakistani Taliban Leader

A supporter of the Pakistani religious party Jamaat-u-Dawa holds up a banner during a rally to condemn U.S. drone attacks in Pakistan, in Islamabad, Pakistan, Friday, Nov. 1, 2013. (AP Photo/Muhammed Muheisen)

A supporter of the Pakistani religious party Jamaat-u-Dawa holds up a banner during a rally to condemn U.S. drone attacks in Pakistan, in Islamabad, Pakistan, Friday, Nov. 1, 2013. (AP Photo/Muhammed Muheisen)

PESHAWAR, Pakistan (AP) -- A U.S. drone strike killed the leader of the Pakistani Taliban Friday, U.S. and Pakistani officials said, in a report that if confirmed would be a major blow to the group that comes just a day after the government said it started peace talks with the militants.

Hakimullah Mehsud, who is also believed to be behind a failed car bombing in New York's Times Square in 2010 as well as brazen attacks inside Pakistan, was widely reported to have been killed in 2010, but later resurfaced. The tribal areas where the drone attacks occur are dangerous, making it difficult for journalists to independently confirm information.

The strike also killed four other suspected militants, according to two Pakistani intelligence officials.

A senior U.S. intelligence official confirmed the strike overnight, saying the U.S. received positive confirmation Friday morning that he had been killed.

The CIA and the White House declined to comment on the reported death.

The U.S. National Counterterrorism Center describes Mehsud as "the self-proclaimed emir of the Pakistani Taliban." Mehsud is on the FBI's most-wanted terrorist list, with a $5 million dollar reward for information leading to his capture, and has been near the top of the CIA Counterterrorism Center's most wanted list for his role in the December 2009 suicide bombing that killed seven Americans - CIA officers and their security detail - at Forward Operating Base Chapman in Khost, Afghanistan. The suicide bomber, a Jordanian double agent, was ushered into the military base to brief CIA officers on al-Qaida, and detonated his explosive vest once he'd reached the inside of the base.

Mehsud was indicted on charges of "conspiracy to murder U.S. citizens abroad and conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction (explosives) against US citizens abroad," the NCTC site says.

Friday's strike in the North Waziristan tribal area comes at such a sensitive time. The government has been trying to cut a peace deal with the militants to end years of fighting that has killed thousands of Pakistani civilians and security forces.

Two senior intelligence officials in North Waziristan said agents sent to the site of the attack in a village outside of the main city of the province confirmed his identity.

Two senior Taliban commanders said they had gone to the area and had seen the remains of the militant commander's body.

All the officials and the militant commanders spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media.

The Taliban commanders said at least four missiles struck just after a vehicle in which Mehsud was driving entered the compound.

The drone strikes are extremely controversial in Pakistan where many people view them as an infringement on Pakistani sovereignty and say innocent civilians are killed in the process.

The newly elected government of Nawaz Sharif was elected in May in part on promises to end the years of fighting in the country's northwest through negotiations instead of continued military operations.

BY RASOOL DAWAR - Nov 1, 1:25 PM EDT AP

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Associated Press writers Kimberly Dozier in Washington, and Abdul Sattar in Quetta, Pakistan, contributed to this report.

 

 
 
 

Officials: Drone Kills Pakistani Taliban Leader

A supporter of the Pakistani religious party Jamaat-u-Dawa holds up a banner during a rally to condemn U.S. drone attacks in Pakistan, in Islamabad, Pakistan, Friday, Nov. 1, 2013. (AP Photo/Muhammed Muheisen)

A supporter of the Pakistani religious party Jamaat-u-Dawa holds up a banner during a rally to condemn U.S. drone attacks in Pakistan, in Islamabad, Pakistan, Friday, Nov. 1, 2013. (AP Photo/Muhammed Muheisen)

PESHAWAR, Pakistan (AP) -- Intelligence officials say the leader of the Pakistani Taliban was one of three people killed in a suspected U.S. drone strike.

The officials say agents sent to the site of the attack in the North Waziristan tribal area Friday confirmed the death of the militant leader, Hakimullah Mehsud.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

A suspected U.S. drone strike in Pakistan on a village known to harbor militants killed at least three people Friday, intelligence officials said, as popular anger boils in the country over the bombings.

The missile strike hit the village of Dande Derpa Khel in North Waziristan, two intelligence officials told The Associated Press. They said the strike, near the town of Miran Shah, hit a house.

It wasn't immediately clear who was killed in the attack or the reason why the U.S. would strike that area. The officials said the village is the stronghold of the Haqqani network, which routinely targets NATO troops in neighboring Afghanistan.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to journalists.

The missiles strike is the second after Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's visit to the U.S. last month where he pressed for stopping of the drone strikes. Most Pakistanis consider the drone strikes to be a violation of the country's sovereignty.

A hard-line religious group protested the strikes Friday in Islamabad and Lahore.

U.S. officials have suggested in the past that the Pakistan government does privately support some of the strikes, which hit militants in tribal regions its army has trouble controlling. The Pakistani government also said this week that 3 percent of 2,227 people killed in U.S. drone strikes since 2008 were civilians, a surprisingly low figure that sparked criticism from groups that have investigated deaths from the attacks.

The strikes also come as Pakistan says its started talks with the country's domestic arm of the Taliban. The leader of one of the country's main opposition parties threatened Thursday to cut off NATO supplies moving through Pakistan if the U.S. launches any drone strikes during the talks.

Also Friday, motorcycle-riding gunmen attacked a truck carrying mineworkers from a Shiite Hazara community in the country's southwest, killing six workers and injuring the driver, a government official said.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack in the Machh district of southwestern Baluchistan province. An al-Qaida-linked militant group known as Lashker-e-Jhangvi has claimed past attacks on the Shiite Hazara community.

BY RASOOL DAWAR - Nov 1, 12:47 PM EDT AP

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Associated Press writer Abdul Sattar in Quetta, Pakistan, contributed to this report.

 

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