US missiles on Thursday killed the most senior Pakistani in al Qaeda, one of the Americans’ main targets in the country and wanted for attacks that killed scores of people, officials claimed.
Badar Mansoor – who reputedly sent fighters to Afghanistan and ran a training camp in North Waziristan – was killed in a drone strike near the Afghan border, Pakistani officials and a member of his group told AFP.
“He died in the missile attacks overnight in Miramshah. His death is a major blow to al Qaeda’s abilities to strike in Pakistan,” a senior Pakistani official told AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity.
His death was confirmed by one of his loyalists.
“Mansoor was killed in the missile attack,” a militant among his group confirmed by telephone.
Intelligence officials in Miramshah said Mansoor had been killed, but other Pakistani officials were divided.
“We’re not sure. We cannot give confirmation just like that,” one of them told AFP.
Meanwhile, four suspected militants were killed in an early morning drone strike in Miramshah. Sources said that the militants belonged to the Badar Mansoor militants group of Punjabi origin.
In an early morning strike, a few minutes past 4:00 am, an unmanned US predator targeted a house in the Zafar Town locality of Miramshah. Sources said that the house was a training centre of militants.
According to intelligence officials, the deceased were identified as Qari Fayaz, Maulvi Faisal Khurasani, Qari Mushtaq and Yasir Khurasani. Sources also revealed that there were two women who were also injured in the strike — possibly the wife and daughter of Mansoor.
Neither the names nor the identities could be independently verified since the area is a no-go zone for journalists and outsiders because of security reasons.
Who is Mansoor?
The senior Pakistani intelligence official described Mansoor as the “de facto leader of al Qaeda in Pakistan” after his predecessor, Ilyas Kashmiri, was reported killed in a drone strike last June.
Unlike Kashmiri, who had a $5 million bounty on his head, Mansoor is not listed on the US State Department Rewards for Justice list.
There was no immediate confirmation of his death from the United States. But one Western counter-terrorism expert described Mansoor as the local chief of al Qaeda and one of the Americans’ chief targets in Pakistan.
“If it’s true, this is very good news for the anti-terrorism fight, and this was very important for both the US and Pakistan,” the official said.
He called Mansoor al Qaeda’s go-between with Pakistan’s umbrella Taliban movement and a member of al Qaeda’s leadership shura in Pakistan.
Officials said Mansoor was responsible for attacks in Karachi and on the Ahmadi community that killed nearly 100 people in the eastern city of Lahore in May 2010.
Aged about 40 and hailing from Dera Ghazi Khan, Mansoor moved to Miramshah several years ago to set up his own training camp.
“Western officials believed he was involved in sending fighters to Afghanistan,” said the senior Pakistani official.
(WITH ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY OUR CORRESPONDENT IN PESHAWAR)
drone strikes have so far been reported in Pakistan in 2012, according to AFP
US missile strikes were reported in Pakistan in 2011, 101 in 2010 and 45 in 2009, according to AFP
civilians, including more than 60 children, have been killed in drone attacks since Obama took office, according to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism
Published in The Express Tribune, February 10th, 2012.