Badar Mansoor, a former commander of the banned Harkat-ul-Mujahideen militant group that was active in Kashmir, was killed with three others when a spy plane fired two missiles at a compound in Miranshah, the main town of North Waziristan tribal agency early this morning, officials were quoted as saying by television news channels.
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Media reports described Mansoor as Al Qaeda's chief in Pakistan. He was a key target for the US and was wanted for several attacks. This was the second drone attack since yesterday, when 10 militants were killed in a strike near Miranshah.
Pakistani Taliban militants had begun hiding in buildings they had rented in Miranshah, officials were quoted as saying.
Mansoor, who served as a conduit between the Taliban and the Al Qaeda, reportedly ran a training camp in North Waziristan, from where he sent militants to Afghanistan.
Mansoor belonged to Dera Ghazi Khan in Punjab province and had close links with the Punjabi Taliban. Mansoor's death was a "major blow" to Al Qaeda.
Mansoor apparently became the head of the Al Qaeda in Pakistan after militant commander Ilyas Kashmiri was reported killed in a drone strike in June last year. Mansoor was linked to terror attacks in Karachi and a deadly assault on mosques of the minority Ahmadi community in Lahore that killed nearly 100 people in May 2010.
Several militant groups, including the Taliban, Al Qaeda and the Haqqani network, have a presence in North Waziristan, from where they launch cross-border attacks into Afghanistan.
The US slowed down its drone campaign in Pakistan's tribal belt after a cross-border North Atlantic Treaty Organisation air strike killed 24 Pakistani soldiers in November, taking relations between Islamabad and Washington to a new low.