Page last updated at 14:48 GMT, Saturday, 6 March 2010

Pakistan Taliban commander 'killed in air strike'


A senior Taliban commander is likely to have been killed by an air strike in Pakistan's north-west, officials say.

The interior minister said he assumed Maulana Faqir Mohammed was dead after helicopters hit a building in Mohmand region, killing at least 16 militants.

Faqir Mohammed - one of the Pakistani Taliban's top figures and commander in the Bajaur tribal area - has been the focus of recent Pakistani action.

A number of Taliban leaders have been arrested or killed in recent weeks.

Washington has been urging Pakistan to act against Afghan Taliban members taking shelter in the tribal areas along the border.

The Pakistani military said recently that the Bajaur area, on the border and once a haven for Afghan and Pakistani Taliban, had been cleared of insurgents.

Last refuge

Speaking in Islamabad, Interior Minister Rehman Malik said he could not confirm the death of Maulana Faqir Mohammed, but expected he was killed in the strike.

"We had real-time intelligence that Faqir Mohammad was in a meeting with another commander, Qari Zia-ur-Rehman, in the basement of this hideout at the time of the attack," Mr Malik said, quoted by Reuters news agency.

"I would be surprised if he's alive. I hope we'll have confirmation in a day or so."

Mr Malik did confirm the death of one senior Taliban figure in the raid, Fateh Mohammed, a military commander in the Swat valley area.

Faqir Mohammed staked a claim to be the overall leader of the Pakistani Taliban after the movement's figurehead, Baitullah Mehsud, was killed in a US drone attack, reports the BBC's Ilyas Khan, in Islamabad,

After the fall last week of Damadola, the Taliban's last stronghold in Bajaur, he was reported to have slipped into the Mohmand region along with hundreds of Taliban fighters.

Qari Zia-ur-Rehman is said to be the top leader of the Taliban in Kunar and Nuristan provinces in Afghanistan.

It is widely believed he has been hiding in Bajaur, and is wanted by Pakistanis and US forces operating in Afghanistan.

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