A leading Al Qaeda military commander, reputed to be number three in the terror group, has been killed following several days of fierce fighting in Pakistan’s North West Frontier province.
Abu Saeed al-Masri, identified in local media reports as Mustafa Abu al-Yazid, Al Qaeda’s commander in Afghanistan, died during a battle in the Bajaur tribal area. Yazid claimed responsibility for the bombing of the Danish embassy in Islamabad earlier this year. He has also been linked to the assassination in December last year, of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto.
Pakistan’s north-west is the scene of fierce fighting, even as attention in Islamabad is firmly fixed on a political drama — the impeachment of President Pervez Musharraf. The violence has left the government’s stated policy, of holding negotiations with militants, in tatters.
“Peace is not working. These militants are not interested in peace,” said Mahmood Shah, a former senior bureaucrat-turned analyst. “There are now serious military operations going on.”
Over the past week, there has been an eruption of violence in two tribal areas, Bajaur and Kurram, which lie along the Afghan border, and in the Swat valley, in NWFP.
The presence of Yazid and Al Qaeda in Pakistan will fuel claims that, not only is the Taliban insurrection in Afghanistan being directed from Pakistani territory, but the country is being used as a worldwide base by Al Qaeda.
Bajaur is a hotbed of militancy, reckoned to be a possible hiding place for Al Qaeda leaders Ayman al-Zawahiri and Osama bin Laden.
10 militants killed
A suspected US missile strike on an Islamist training camp in a Pakistani tribal area bordering Afghanistan killed at least 10 militants, security officials said.
Four missiles hit the camp in the troubled South Waziristan region, which was run by a militant from the Hezb-i-Islami group of wanted Afghan warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, they said.