US drone strike kills al Qaeda commander in Pakistan

Dera Ismail Khan, Pakistan:  A U.S. drone strike has killed an al Qaeda commander in Pakistan's northwest, the second member of the Islamic militant network killed in the area in less than a week, Pakistani intelligence officials and a Taliban militant said on Monday.

Mohammad Ahmed al-Mansoor died on Sunday when drone-launched missiles hit a house in Tabbi village in the North Waziristan tribal area, the main sanctuary for al Qaeda and Taliban fighters in the country, the officials and militant said.

Al-Mansoor was a close aide to senior al Qaeda leader Sheik Khalid bin Abdel Rehman al-Hussainan, who was killed in a drone strike in North Waziristan on Thursday, said the officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media. Al-Hussainan was also known as Abu Zaid al-Kuwaiti.

Covert CIA drone strikes have killed a series of senior al Qaeda and Taliban leaders in Pakistan's tribal region over the past few years. The attacks are controversial because the secret nature of the program makes it difficult to determine how many civilians are being killed.

Pakistani officials often criticize such strikes as a violation of the country's sovereignty, which has helped make them extremely unpopular in the country. But senior Pakistani officials are known to have cooperated with strikes in the past, and many people believe they still do.

There were conflicting accounts of who died in the strike Sunday along with al-Mansoor.

The intelligence officials said his wife and son were also killed, while the militant said two Punjabi Taliban fighters died with him. The Taliban militant spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of being targeted by the government.

Al Qaeda's central leadership in Pakistan has been dealt a series of heavy blows in the past few years, including the U.S. commando raid that killed Osama bin Laden in the Pakistani town of Abbottabad last year. A significant number of senior al Qaeda leaders have also been killed in U.S. drone attacks in the country.

Also Monday, Taliban militants armed with a rocket, hand grenades and automatic weapons attacked a police station in northwestern Pakistan, killing six people, police said.

The attack occurred in the city of Bannu, which serves as a gateway to the North Waziristan tribal area and which has been hit by repeated attacks over the years.

The militants began the attack by firing a rocket at the gate of the police station and tossing hand grenades, triggering a battle with police that last lasted over an hour, said senior police officer Wagar Ahmed.

Three policemen and three civilians were killed in the attack, said Ahmed. The civilians were coming out of a nearby mosque when they were shot by the militants. Eight people were wounded, including three policemen and five civilians.

Three militants were killed during the attack and one escaped.

Pakistani Taliban spokesman Ahsanullah Ahsan claimed responsibility for the attack in a telephone call to The Associated Press from an undisclosed location.

Elsewhere in the country, gunmen attacked a checkpoint manned by paramilitary forces on the outskirts of the southern city of Karachi, killing two soldiers, said police officer Azhar Iqbal. Two policemen were wounded in the attack, he said.

In the eastern city of Lahore, an elderly Swedish woman who was shot and critically wounded a week ago by an unknown assailant was flown home for medical treatment, said police officer Zahoorul Haq Qureshi. The woman, Bargeeta Almby, is in her 70s and was a volunteer at a church in Lahore. She was flown home in an aircraft sent by the Swedish government, Qureshi added.
Story First Published: December 11, 2012 00:27 IST

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