ISLAMABAD - The Government of Pakistan has strongly condemned the US drone strike that took place in Ghulam Khan tehsil of North Waziristan Agency on early Friday morning (Defence Day).

Foreign office spokesman in a statement said: “These unilateral strikes are a violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. Pakistan has repeatedly emphasised the importance of bringing an immediate end to these drone strikes.”

The statement said the government has consistently maintained that drone strikes are counterproductive, entail loss of innocent civilian lives and have human rights and humanitarian implications.

“Such strikes also set dangerous precedents in the inter-state relations. These drone strikes have a negative impact on the mutual desire of both countries to forge a cordial and cooperative relationship and ensure peace and stability in the region,” it added.

Meanwhile, US missiles early Friday killed a commander linked to Haqqani network involved in the abduction of US soldier Bowe Bergdahl, Pakistani officials said. Mullah Sangeen Zadran, blacklisted as a terrorist by the United Nations and United States, was among seven fighters killed in a drone strike in North Waziristan.

The United States has blamed the Haqqani network, a faction of the Taliban waging a 12-year insurgency in Afghanistan, for a series of high-profile attacks in recent years. Two announcements made by mosque loudspeaker in Miranshah, the main town in North Waziristan, said Zadran’s funeral would take place at 3pm on Friday, witnesses said.

Two Pakistani intelligence officials, who spoke to AFP on condition of anonymity, confirmed his death and said an Arab fighter was also among the dead.

Pakistani officials said the US drone fired two missiles, destroying a compound overnight in Dargah Mandi, a Haqqani stronghold about 10 kilometres from Miranshah.

In August 2011, the US State Department said Zadran was believed to have orchestrated the kidnappings of Afghans and foreigners in the border region between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Earlier that year, he was identified by the SITE monitoring group as the militant who blindfolded and led away US soldier Bowe Bergdahl on a video filmed of his captivity.

Bergdahl disappeared on June 30, 2009 from his base in Paktika. He is the only known American soldier held by Afghan insurgents, who have released several videos showing him to be alive.

A source close to the Afghan Taliban in northwestern Pakistan told AFP on condition of anonymity on Friday that Zadran had been involved in the abduction of the soldier. The Taliban on June 18 opened an office in the Gulf state of Qatar, reviving hopes in the United States that contacts might resume on a prisoner exchange that would bring Bergdahl home.

Efforts to negotiate an exchange between Bergdahl and five Taliban prisoners in Guantanamo Bay collapsed last year.

The US State Department says his release is a priority. Bergdahl has said in a video that he was captured when he fell behind his unit during a patrol.

The US State Department said Zadran was shadow governor of Paktika, a volatile Afghan province on the Pakistani border, and a lieutenant of Haqqani leader Sirajuddin Haqqani.

It said Zadran led fighters in attacks across southeastern Afghanistan, and was believed to have planned and coordinated the movement of hundreds of foreign fighters into Afghanistan.

On a visit to Islamabad last month, US Secretary of State John Kerry suggested that drone strikes in Pakistan could end ‘very soon’ as the threat of militancy recedes.

There has been a steady decline in the number of US drone strikes reported in Pakistan in recent years.

According to an AFP tally there were 101 attacks in 2010, killing more than 670 people, compared to just 18 so far this year killing just over 100 people.

According to Reuters, Sangeen Zadran was the operational commander in Pakistan’s tribal areas for the Haqqani network.

The United States placed Zadran, 45, on its list of global terrorists in 2011. He was accused of planning bomb attacks and assaults on US bases in eastern Afghanistan, planning movements of foreign Taliban fighters and orchestrating kidnappings of Afghan and foreign nationals in border areas.

His death will be a temporary blow to the Haqqani network, said Saifullah Mahsud of the FATA Research Centre, a Pakistani thinktank that works in the tribal areas.

“He was one of the chief mediators among the Taliban factions, responsible for settling disputes,” said Mahsud. “He is or was holding Bergdahl.”

A source among insurgents on the ground said the dead from Friday’s drone attack also included a 32-year-old Al-Qaeda commander who was an expert in explosives, and identified him as Zubir al Muzi, an Egyptian national. Three Jordanians and two local fighters were also killed, he said.

It is hard to assess the impact of drone attacks because independent observers and journalists have almost no access to the areas where the strikes occur. Most information comes from officials who speak on condition of anonymity.