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Pakistani Taliban leader reportedly killed in missile strike

Commander was wanted in attack on US Consulate

By Rohan Sullivan
Associated Press / February 26, 2010

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ISLAMABAD, Pakistan - A Pakistani Taliban commander wanted in the deadly 2006 bombing of the US Consulate in Karachi was killed in a suspected CIA missile strike in northwest Pakistan, officials said yesterday - the latest blow in a crackdown on militants in the region.

Mohammed Qari Zafar was among at least 13 people killed Wednesday when three missiles slammed into a compound and a vehicle in the Dargah Mandi area of the North Waziristan tribal region on the border with Afghanistan, two Pakistani intelligence officials said. They spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to release the information.

It was the latest strike in an intensified US campaign to take out Taliban and Al Qaeda leaders believed to be sheltering in the lawless border region with missiles fired from unmanned drone aircraft. At the same time, Pakistani intelligence forces have cracked down on Afghan Taliban in the country, arresting more than a dozen top leaders in the past few weeks.

Meanwhile, Pakistan has arrested the fourth leader of the Afghan Taliban in three weeks, Afghanistan’s government confirmed yesterday, a further sign Pakistani security forces are cracking down on the insurgent movement.

Authorities in northwest Pakistan detained Maulavi Abdul Kabir, who is a member of the Taliban’s leadership council, said Siamak Herawi, the deputy spokesman for President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan. Kabir was deputy prime minister in the Taliban government that ruled Afghanistan from 1996 until 2001, and briefly as acting prime minister.

Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate supported the Taliban as a proxy force in Afghanistan in the 1990s, and Taliban guerrillas still use Pakistani border areas as bases for their attacks on US-led forces backing Karzai’s government.

Pakistan also will extradite the Taliban deputy leader, Abdul Ghani Baradar, to Afghanistan, Zemarai Bashary, Afghan interior minister, said in a phone interview. “We hope this is the start of large-scale Pakistani operations’’ against the Afghan insurgents, Bashary said.

The increased pressure on the Taliban in Pakistan is occurring as US-led forces fight their biggest offensive of the eight-year-old war in neighboring Afghanistan in what Western officials hope will be a turning point in the conflict.

Zafar, a senior member of the banned Al Qaeda-linked militant group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, is one of Pakistan’s and Washington’s most wanted men.

The US government alleges Zafar was a key figure in the March 2006 suicide car bombing of the US Consulate in the commercial metropolis of Karachi that killed US diplomat David Foy and three Pakistanis, and has posted a $5 million dollar reward for information leading to his capture..