A suspected U.S. drone strike killed several Pakistani Taliban militants in North Waziristan close to the Afghanistan border, a regional government official and an Islamist militant said on Thursday, in a rare strike on Pakistani soil.
If confirmed, the air strike, which happened on Wednesday, would be only the second drone attack inside the nuclear-armed nation since U.S. President Donald Trump took office in January.
Kamran Afridi, a a senior regional official in the tribal region of North Waziristan, told Reuters in a text message a “drone strike” had struck Pakistani Taliban militants close to the Afghanistan border and killed seven fighters.
Afridi, who holds the post of ‘political agent’ in North Waziristanl, identified one of the dead militants as Abdur Rahman, a senior commander of the Pakistani Taliban. Several other militant sources said Rahman was killed.
Abdullah Wazirstani, spokesman for North Waziristan Taliban, a group linked to the Pakistani Taliban, said the strike killed three civilian “labourers” and seven militants from the Pakistani Taliban, which is also known as TTP.
Malik Waheedullah, a local tribal leader, told Reuters he saw two missiles strike a mountain home which caught fire. “I drove away as fast as I could,” he said.
One Pakistani intelligence official and government source said they believed the strike to be a U.S. drone attack.
U.S. officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
North Waziristan was a Taliban stronghold until 2014, when Pakistan’s military launched a major offensive against the group and pushed many of its fighters across the border into Afghanistan.
U.S. drone attacks inside Pakistan have become rare over the past few years. In its last high-profile attack inside Pakistan, the United States last May killed Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour in the southwestern province of Baluchistan.