Mullah Maulvi Nazir Wazir, a senior Pakistani militant leader, was killed in a drone strike Wednesday night in South Waziristan. Nazir’s second-in-command, Ratta Khan, was also killed in the strike, along with five Taliban fighters. The strike hit a house in Angoor Adda, near the capital of Wana. Four other militants were also killed in a separate attack further north, though they have not yet been identified.
Nazir had been sending fighters to the Afghan Taliban to fight U.S.-led foreign and government troops in Afghanistan, working with the Pakistani government and against the Pakistani faction of the Taliban. Nazir’s group is one of several factions operating near the turbulent Afghan-Pakistan border in the northwest area of Pakistan. He was considered by the Pakistani government to be one of the “good” Taliban leaders, though locals say that he had been terrorizing them.
The Pakistani military had been working with Nazir and his group and Pakistani officials say that Nazir’s death could cause strife between the U.S. and Islamabad as Nazir had been instrumental in helping to keep the peace inside the country. The Mullah had been wounded in a bomb attack in November that was believed to have originated with his Taliban rivals. Nazir is the sixth militant leader killed in Pakistan by American drones since 2009.
The subject of drone strikes is a contentious one both in the Middle East and here at home. They have increased dramatically in number since President Obama took office, peaking at 117 in 2011 and feeding public anger in Pakistan while drawing criticism in the United States. Though insiders say that the Pakistani government condoned the strikes when the program first began, officials in Pakistan are now demanding an end to drone attacks, saying that they violate the country’s sovereignty. While it is difficult to verify, rights groups say that between 2,600 and 3,404 Pakistanis have been killed by drone strikes, 473-889 of which were civilians.