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Gunmen kill Pakistani Taliban commander

Associated Press / June 28, 2011

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DERA ISMAIL KHAN, Pakistan — Gunmen yesterday killed a senior Pakistani Taliban commander who helped train and deploy the group’s suicide bombers, and suspected US drone missile strikes killed 20 suspected militants elsewhere in the northwest, Pakistani intelligence officials said.

Shakirullah Shakir was riding on a motorcycle near Miran Shah, the main town in the North Waziristan tribal area, when gunmen riding in a car with tinted windows shot him, the officials said.

Shakir was a senior commander and spokesman for the Fidayeen-e-Islam wing of the Pakistani Taliban. He once claimed to a local newspaper that his group had trained more than 1,000 suicide bombers at camps in North Waziristan.

No group has claimed responsibility for his killing.

Both North Waziristan and South Waziristan are key sanctuaries for the Pakistani Taliban, which has declared war on the US-allied Pakistani government.

Missiles believed to have been fired by a US drone hit a pickup truck in the Dra Nishter area of South Waziristan on yesterday, killing eight suspected militants, Pakistani intelligence officials said. Dra Nishter is a Pakistani Taliban stronghold near the border with North Waziristan and had previously been hit twice by suspected US drones in recent months.

Hours later, another attack by what was likely a US drone fired two missiles at a compound in Mantoi, located about 30 miles northwest of Wana, the main town in South Waziristan, killing 12 suspected militants, said Pakistani intelligence officials.

The Pakistani officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media.

Elsewhere in the northwest, a senior Pakistani Taliban commander said he is splitting from the group to protest attacks against civilians, a rare criticism from within.

Fazal Saeed said he is forming his own militant group, Tehrik-e-Taliban Islami, and will focus on fighting NATO troops in Afghanistan. The Pakistani Taliban, or Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, is focused on battling the Pakistani government.

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