US drone kills senior Haqqani commander

PUBLISHED : Friday, 06 September, 2013, 9:26pm
UPDATED : Friday, 06 September, 2013, 9:26pm

US missiles on Friday killed a senior commander in the al-Qaeda-linked Haqqani network, wanted for kidnappings and sending hundreds of foreign fighters into Afghanistan, Pakistani officials said.

Mullah Sangeen Zadran, blacklisted as a terrorist by the United Nations and United States, was among six fighters killed in a drone strike in the tribal district of North Waziristan.

The United States has blamed the Haqqani network, a faction of the Taliban waging a 12-year insurgency in Afghanistan, for a series of high-profile attacks in recent years.

Two announcements made by mosque loudspeaker in Miranshah, the main town in North Waziristan, said his funeral would take place at 3pm on Friday.

Two Pakistani intelligence officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, confirmed his death and said an Arab fighter was also among the dead.

Pakistani officials said the US drone fired two missiles, destroying a compound overnight in Dargah Mandi, a Haqqani stronghold about 10 kilometres from Miranshah.

In 2011, the US State Department described Zardan as shadow governor of Paktika, one of the most volatile Afghan provinces on the Pakistani border and as a lieutenant of Haqqani leader Sirajuddin Haqqani.

It said Zadran led fighters in attacks across southeastern Afghanistan, and was believed to have planned and co-ordinated the movement of hundreds of foreign fighters into Afghanistan.

He was also connected to roadside bombings and was believed to have orchestrated the kidnappings of Afghans and foreigners in the border region between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The Pakistani government formally protests against US drone strikes as a violation of sovereignty, but Washington views them as a vital tool in the fight against al-Qaeda and the Taliban.

On a visit to Islamabad last month, US Secretary of State John Kerry suggested that drone strikes in Pakistan could end “very soon” as the threat of militancy recedes.

There has been a steady decline in the number of US drone strikes reported in Pakistan in recent years.

There were 101 attacks in 2010, killing more than 670 people compared to just 18 so far this year killing just over 100 people.