Key Pakistan militants ‘killed’

Missiles fired by a US drone are believed to have killed an al-Qaeda chief and a top Uzbek militant in north-west Pakistan, officials say.

US and Pakistani officials say that the separate strikes took place in September on targets within the tribal region of North Waziristan.

Correspondents say that the reported deaths are another apparent victory for the controversial drone programme.

Officials have named the dead men as Ilyas Kashmiri and Nazimuddin.

A similar strike last month killed Pakistani Taliban chief Baitullah Mehsud.

Pakistan’s government publicly condemns drone attacks, arguing that they lead to anti-Americanism among people in areas that are hit by missiles. But many observers argue that Islamabad secretly endorses the tactic.

Pakistani intelligence officials say that Mr Kashmiri, a Pakistani national, was killed in a drone strike on a compound on 7 September, while Nazimuddin was killed on 14 September.

North Waziristan is part of Pakistan’s tribal area close to the Afghan border. It is one of the country’s most lawless regions where al-Qaeda chief Osama Bin Laden and his deputy Ayman al-Zawahri are believed to be hiding.

Suicide attack

The BBC’s Syed Shoaib Hasan says that Ilyas Kashmiri was a founding member of the Harkat-e-Jihad-e-Islami (Huji) in Afghanistan in the mid-1980s.

Baitullah Mehsud

The reported deaths follow on from the killing of Baitullah Mehsud

At that time Huji was one of the largest militant groups of Pakistani origin fighting the Soviets and had close links with many foreign militants from the Arabian peninsula.

These included a young Osama Bin Laden.

In the mid 1990s the Pakistani government began targeting the group after it was found to be involved in a plot by senior army officers to assassinate the elected Pakistani government led by Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.

The group consequently went underground but continued its activities, with Ilyas Kashmiri taking control after the 9/11 attacks in the US.

In December 2004, Mr Kashmiri was arrested for his role in the attempted assassination of President Pervez Musharraf. The president barely escaped with his life in the double suicide attack on his convoy.

Mr Kashmiri was held for a month before being released without charge. Officials say he resumed his militant activities and recently was a key link between the Taliban and the Punjabi militant groups.

He was also said to be involved in the recent kidnapping and beheading of a Polish engineer, Pyotr Stanczak.

spotted by RS

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