PESHAWAR - A US drone strike killed a Pakistani Taliban leader and two others on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, the Taliban said on Thursday, in the latest attack by an unmanned aircraft targeting the Afghan bases of Pakistani Taliban leaders.
“Commander Khawray Mehsud embraced ‘martyrdom’ in a US drone strike, along with two others, in Afghan territory” near the Pakistani tribal district of Kurram on Wednesday, said Taliban spokesman Muhammad Khurasani.
Two Pakistani intelligence officials confirmed Thursday’s strike on the border between Pakistan’s Kurram Agency and Afghanistan.
The strike killed Pakistani Taliban commander Khawray Mehsud, who possessed “great militant skills,” the Taliban said in a statement. “He was very close to martyred (Pakistani Taliban) chief Hakimullah Mehsud and was his personal bodyguard,” it added.
Mehsud, who hailed from the South Waziristan tribal district, was among the founding members of the Pakistani Taliban when it was formed in 2007.  He was a close associate of its first and second leaders, Baitullah Mehsud and Hakimullah Mehsud, who were both killed in separate US drone strikes, Khurasani said in a statement. “Khawery Mehsud was the key battle commander of Baitullah Mehsud and was a close associate and personal bodyguard of Hakimullah Mehsud,” added the spokesman.
A Nato spokesman did not confirm the killing, but said: “There were two US forces precision strikes in eastern Afghanistan yesterday. One in Kunar and one in Khost,” which borders Pakistan’s Kurram area. The Pakistani Taliban are allied with the Afghan militants of the same name and share a similar militant ideology.
But they operate as a separate entity, focused on toppling the Pakistani state and establishing strict Islamic rule in the nuclear-armed nation. The strikes come amid warming relations between the traditionally hostile neighbours, each of whom has accused the other of harbouring insurgents to act as proxy forces.
Relations improved after Afghan President Ashraf Ghani was elected last year. Pakistan is supporting potential peace talks between the Afghan government and Afghan Taliban.
Diplomats hope that Pakistan will be able to pressurise the Afghan Taliban to join peace talks, by threatening their bases in the country. But Pakistan also wants to see action against Pakistani insurgents hiding in Afghanistan.