A drone strike in northwest Pakistan Thursday killed at least six militant commanders of one of the Taliban’s top leaders, Maulvi Nazir, whose faction is blamed for carrying out attacks on NATO forces in neighboring Afghanistan.
The strike, which reportedly killed Maulvi Nazir’s younger brother Hazrat Omar, follows a visit by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to Pakistan last week in which she said that the US and Pakistan were working to put plans in operation against militant havens in Pakistan in the coming “days and weeks.”
According to analyst Amir Rana, Director of the Pakistan Institute for Peace Studies (PIPS) in Islamabad, the drone strike signals a manifestation of the military understanding between the two countries.
Maulvi Nazir’s network “had a clear collaboration” with the powerful Haqqani network, which the US claims operates out of havens in Pakistan's North Waziristan region and which it blames for a number of a high-profile attacks on US forces.
The major component of the collaboration, he adds, is the cross supply of foot soldiers to other factions with like-minded agendas.
According to reports, four missiles struck the militants’ vehicle some 13 miles west of Wana, the administrative capital of South Waziristan.
Though drone strikes in the area are not uncommon, the attack is notable for the fact that it penetrated Maulvi Nazir’s family circle. Hazrat Omar is described in media reports as being a key operational commander of the faction.
Maulvi Nazir’s faction has maintained a peace agreement with the Pakistan Army and has in the past joined with another Taliban faction, led by Hafiz Gul Bahadur, to fight the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, which carries out attacks inside Pakistan.
Consequently, an understanding between the Pakistani and US militaries on cracking down on the group could create a domestic backlash for Pakistan, adds Rana.
The use of drone strikes inside Pakistan inflames public opinion and the Pakistani government officially denies sharing intelligence with US forces. On Friday, a delegation of tribal elders from Pakistan’s tribal areas are set to protest in Islamabad against drones, which they say lead to innocent casualties.