The chief of the outlawed Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has escaped a US drone strike in Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province close to the border with Pakistan, officials said Tuesday.
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Highly placed intelligence sources had told Dawn.com that the unmanned aircraft fired four missiles on a compound in Nazyan village in southeastern Afghanistan Monday night, killing at least five Pakistani and Afghan militants near the Pak-Afghan border.
Sources said intelligence reports suggested Mullah Fazllulah had been in the area near the zero-line for over a day. The strike was aimed at targeting the militant chief but he narrowly escaped, they said. The identities of the killed militants is yet to be ascertained.
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There was no confirmation of the drone strike from the Afghan government or the CIA, which allegedly operates drone operations along Pakistan-Afghan border. Pakistan has long demanded of Afghanistan to hand over Mullah Fazlullah, said to be in hiding there since he fled a Pakistani military operation in his native Swat valley in 2009. Fazlullah continued to live in Afghanistan after becoming the head of the TTP last year following the death of former TTP chief Hakimullah Mehsud in a US drone strike.
While directing terrorist activities inside Pakistan from his sanctuaries in Afghanistan, the TTP supremo is also known to have organised cross-border attacks. Some sources told Dawn.com that Fazllullah might have been trying to send fighters across the border to Khyber tribal agency’s Tirah valley to join fighters of the militant outfit Lashkar-i-Islam.
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The Pakistan army is currently engaged in a military operation in Khyber agency against LI and TTP militants. LI chief Mangal Bagh is reported to have requested TTP and other militant groups to send their fighters to the Tirah valley to support LI. Scores of militants have crossed in to Tirah from Afghanistan after the appeal and the TTP had also announced to send fighters to join LI. -dawn