US drone strike kills Pakistani Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud
Pakistani Taliban commander Hakimullah Mehsud speaks to a group of media representatives in the Mamouzai area of Orakzai Agency on November 26, 2008
The drone fired two missiles at a vehicle in a compound near Miranshah, the main town of the North Waziristan tribal region, a stronghold for Taliban and Al-Qaeda linked militants, security officials said.
"Hakimullah Mehsud is dead," a security official in Peshawar told AFP.
Three local intelligence officials in Miranshah confirmed the death, while a senior Taliban source said Mehsud was killed in the strike along with his bodyguard, driver and uncle.
Mehsud's death came a week after Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif urged US President Barack Obama to stop drone strikes during a meeting in Washington.
Three insurgents were killed in another drone strike on Thursday that also targeted a suspected militant compound near Miranshah.
The United States charged Mehsud with terrorism after seven Americans were killed in a suicide attack at a CIA base in Afghanistan in December, the deadliest attack on the agency since 1983.
Washington also offered a reward of up to $5 million for information on his whereabouts and added the TTP to a blacklist of foreign terrorist groups.
North Waziristan is one of seven semi-autonomous tribal regions along the Afghan border, which Washington considers to be a major hub of Taliban and Al-Qaeda militants plotting attacks on the West and in Afghanistan.
The Pakistani defence ministry Wednesday said 317 US drone strikes in the country's tribal areas had killed 67 civilians and 2,160 militants in Pakistan since 2008. Other organisations have given much higher estimates for the civilian casualties of drone strikes in the region.
The attacks are deeply unpopular in Pakistan, but Washington sees them as a vital tool in the fight against militants in the lawless tribal areas along the border with Afghanistan.
The Pakistani government has repeatedly protested against drone strikes as a violation of its sovereignty.
But privately officials have been reported as saying the attacks can be useful in eliminating militants.
Mehsud took control of the TTP after a bitter fight for the leadership after a US drone killed founder Baitullah Mehsud in August 2009.
Mehsud's number two Waliur Rehman perished in a drone strike in North Waziristan in May, just weeks after Sharif won the general election after pledging to explore talks with the militants.
The government of Sharif has been edging towards peace talks to end the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan's (TTP) bloody six-year struggle against the state, which has left thousands dead.
Last month Sharif won the backing of the main political parties to go ahead with dialogue with the TTP, and the powerful army chief has voiced his support.
Officials said Thursday that the "process of dialogue" had started but no formal talks had taken place yet.
Shahidullah Shahid, the main spokesman for the TTP told AFP on Friday that there had been no overtures.
MORE REGIONAL NEWS
Latest Photo Galleries on xinmsn
South Africa's parliament rang with handsome, heartfelt tributes to Nelson Mandela on Monday, but also warnings against failing to live up t... More South Africa's parliament rang with handsome, heartfelt tributes to Nelson Mandela on Monday, but also warnings against failing to live up to his legacy. Duration: 00:34
Date 26 mins ago, Duration 0:34, Views 0