Pakistan's banned militant outfit Tehrik-e-Taliban has confirmed the killing of its top commander Mullah Dadullah and about 20 of his followers in a NATO air strike inside Afghanistan.
Dadullah and his companions were killed after they returned to their Afghan hideout in Kunar province on Friday after carrying out raids in the Pakistani tribal region of Bajaur, a Taliban spokesman told reporters in the country's northwest.
Afghan officials and Taliban commanders said a US drone strike in a mountainous area of Kunar killed 19 militants including Dadullah and his deputy Abdul Rahman. At least eight Afghan-based Pakistani militants were injured in the attack and taken to a hospital at Asadabad in Afghanistan.
This was the first drone strike reported in Kunar and Dadullah the first senior Pakistani militant commander to be killed in a drone strike within Afghanistan.
"Someone had planted a chip, usually used for spying on the mujahideen, near his compound that helped the drone track him down. Maulvi Dadullah and his 12 bodyguards, including his deputy commander Abdul Rahman, were killed in the attack," a senior Pakistani Taliban commander from Bajaur told the media.
Dadullah was the head of the Taliban chapter in Bajaur Agency. He fled to Afghanistan with hundreds of militants after the Pakistan Army launched an operation in the tribal area last year.
Maulana Abu Bakr has been named the new chief of Bajaur Agency on the directives of Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan chief Hakimullah Mehsud, the spokesman said.
Dadullah belonged to the Mamond tribe in Damadola village in Pakistan, about 7 km from the Afghanistan border. He was a prayer leader in a village mosque and ran a shop in Inayat Killi area joining the Taliban. According to sources, Dadullah had a close association with senior members of Al Qaeda during 2003-07.
When he was appointed head of Taliban's Amar Bil Maroof (Vice and Virtue) Department, he imposed a ban on CD and cassette shops and declared that shaving beards was un-Islamic. He was later made head of a Darul Kafala (orphanage centre) run by the Taliban in Inayat Killi.
Dadullah had replaced Maulana Faqir Mohammad as the Taliban's Bajaur chief in 2010 before he moved to Afghanistan.
Chief Taliban spokesman Ihsanullah Ihsan said the militants would continue their campaign despite the loss of Dadullah.
"His death is a serious loss to us but he will always live in our hearts due to the sacrifices he rendered for the implementation of Shariah in Pakistan," he said.