MIRANSHAH: A fresh drone strike that has killed Tehreek-e-Taliban (TTP) commander Hakimullah Mehsud along with four others and injured two in North Waziristan on Friday, a Reuters report claimed, but a TTP spokesperson denied the report.
The strike on Friday evening targeted a house in Dandey Darpakhel, five kilometres (three miles) north of Miranshah, a town that US considers to be a stronghold of Taliban and al Qaeda militants.
The identities of those killed in the strike are not yet known, but sources say a senior militant commander may be among the dead.
This is the second drone attack in two days, after Thursday’s strike killed three people in Miranshah bazaar.
Hakeemullah’s status unclear
There was speculation that TTP chief Hakeemullah Mehsud, who has a $5 million bounty on his head, with a Reuters report claiming that was among those killed in the drone strike.
The Reuters report citing unnamed security sources said that the TTP chief had been successfully targeted.
“We can confirm Hakeemullah Mehsud was killed in the drone strike,” said one unnamed senior security official told Retuers.
An intelligence source said that “Hakeemullah Mehsud’s funeral is scheduled for 3 pm (Saturday) in Miranshah.”
However, TTP spokesperson Shahidullah Shahid denied the militant commander had been killed in the attack, Express News reported.
A strike in the midst of ‘dialogue process’
On Wednesday, a week after Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had urged his US counterpart to halt drone strikes, US Congressman Alan Grayson had said that if Pakistan wanted, drone strikes “could end tomorrow” and that “these strikes would not be possible if Pakistan did not facilitate them.”
Then hours after Thursday’s drone attack, an agitated Imran Khan had stated that the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) would put a stop to NATO supplies if a drone attack is conducted during the Taliban peace talks.
Also on Thursday, the Pakistani government announced that the dialogue process with the Taliban had begun, although no formal talks had occurred as yet.
“We expect that the formal dialogue with Taliban will also take place very soon,” Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar told opposition parties.
The Pakistani defence ministry recently said that 317 US drone strikes in the country’s tribal areas had killed 67 civilians and 2,160 militants in Pakistan since 2008, figures that opposition parties in the parliament are highly skeptical of.