WANA/PESHAWAR: Ten persons, including Pakistani Taliban commander Maulvi Nazir, were killed in two separate drone attacks in South and North Waziristan, official and tribal sources said on Thursday.
Maulvi Nazir was killed along with his five sub-commanders and bodyguards in the first US drone strike of the year in Sra Kanda village in South Waziristan on Wednesday night, the sources said.
Considered pro-Pakistan as he had signed a peace accord with the government in 2007 and pledged not to fight against the Pakistani forces, Maulvi Nazir led the Taliban militants belonging to the Ahmadzai Wazir tribe inhabiting Wana, Shakai and Angoor Adda areas. He wasn’t a part of the Hakimullah Mehsud-led Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) that has been waging a war against the state since December 2007.
People close to Maulvi Nazir said he was not always happy with the Pakistan government and also complained about the media for projecting him as a pro-government Taliban commander.
Taliban sources said Maulvi Nazir had gone to Sra Kanda village in Birmal Tehsil of South Waziristan near Angoor Adda close to the Afghan border when he came under the missile attack.
“After a meeting with some of his close men there, he decided to return to Wana along with his sub-commanders. They had parked their vehicles at some distance and it was difficult for them to walk. They went to some Koochi tribesmen in Sra Kanda and asked them for a lift in their pickup truck to take them to their vehicles. One of the Koochi families refused but another agreed and gave them a vehicle on rent with a driver. They had hardly driven a few meters distance when the drone fired four missiles and killed all of them,” a senior Taliban commander and close aide to Maulvi Nazir said.
He said their bodies were not disfigured in the missile attack and were brought to Azam Warsak village for burial on Thursday morning.
Pleading anonymity, the Taliban commander said Maulvi Nazir and his senior sub-commanders, including Rapa Khan, Maulvi Attaullah, Allauddin, Ihsan and a Koochi tribesman, died on spot in the attack.
The local Taliban and Ahmadzai Wazir tribesmen did not hide the death of their top commander and his men and started announcements from loudspeakers in the mosques in various villages of Wana, Azam Warsak and Shakai about their deaths. They asked the people to participate in their funeral prayers held in Azam Warsak, 12 kilometres west of Wana.
A large number of tribesmen attended the funeral prayers for the slain Taliban commander and his fallen men amid tight security. The Taliban had made foolproof security arrangements for the funeral prayers and armed militants were deployed outside the venue.
Tribal sources said the drones were seen flying over the area when the funeral prayers were being offered. “After the funeral prayers in Azam Warsak, we brought the body of Maulvi Nazir for burial in the graveyard in Zari Noor village, seven kilometres west of Wana, where a large number of people had gathered. Again funeral prayers for him were offered at the village,” a tribesman, who happened to be an old friend of Maulvi Nazir, said.
Wishing not to be named, he said Maulvi Nazir, 38, was widely respected by the Ahmadzai Wazirs for his humbleness and simplicity. All shops and markets in Wana’s main Rustam Bazaar were kept closed on Thursday to mourn the death of Maulvi Nazir and his men.
Nazir belonged to the Kakakhel sub-tribe of the Ahmadzai Wazir tribe. His fellow tribesmen mostly live in Afghanistan’s Paktika province.Later, the Ahmadzai Wazir tribal elders and militants held a meeting in Wana and chose Salahuddin Ayubi to replace Maulvi Nazir.
“Though Qari Ziaur Rahman was deputy to Maulvi Nazir, we all agreed to nominate commander Salahuddin Ayubi as he is an old Jihadi commander and was close to Maulvi Nazir. Salahuddin Ayubi initially refused to accept the responsibility but agreed when the elders and all the militant commanders insisted that he should become the new commander. He declared that he would continue the mission of his late friend,” a Taliban commander told The News after the meeting.
He said Maulvi Nazir had recovered from injuries that he suffered in a suicide attack on November 29 in Wana and on the advice of his commanders he used to spend most of his time away from Wana.
“He always wished to be killed in the battlefield against foreign forces in Afghanistan or in a drone attack instead of a suicide attack. He was afraid of the repercussions of his death in a suicide attack for the peace in South Waziristan,” the Taliban commander recalled.
A senior commander of the group, Ainullah, said though the death of Maulvi Nazir had saddened them, they were proud of his martyrdom and also of his men.Commander Taj Muhammad was appointed to lead the Taliban fighters in place of Rapa Khan, who was killed along with Maulvi Nazir.
Maulvi Nazir became prominent when the tribal militants and Ahmadzai Wazir tribesmen, backed by Pakistani security forces, launched a crackdown against the foreign fighters, particularly the Uzbek militants, to expel them from their villages and towns in the summer of 2007.
He was later nominated the leader of the tribal militants in Wana and Shakai valley in South Waziristan. He was once close to Baitullah Mehsud, the founder of TTP, but later developed differences with him and joined hands with the Taliban leader in North Waziristan, Hafiz Gul Bahadur.
Maulvi Nazeer lost most of his senior commanders and close relatives, including his younger brother Hazrat Omar and cousin Khan Muhammad Wazir, in drone attacks and target killings. His death is seen as a great loss to the pro-government Taliban militants and Ahmadzai Wazir tribe in South Waziristan.
Meanwhile, four more people were killed in another drone attack on a double-cabin pickup truck in Mubarakshi village in Mir Ali subdivision of North Waziristan on Thursday morning.
Tribal sources said the drone fired four missiles on the speeding pick-up truck. Three missiles missed the target but the fourth hit it. They said all the four people on board were killed on the spot and their mutilated bodies were later retrieved from the wreckage of the vehicle.