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Suspected American Drone Strike Said to Have Killed Pakistan Taliban No. 2

May 29, 2013 at 12:00 AM EST
Days after President Obama announced new restrictions to the drone program, a suspected U.S. drone strike killed a top Pakistani Taliban commander. Pakistani intelligence officials say the man, Wali ur-Rehman, was killed along with four others, but the White House would not confirm the attack or deaths. Jeffrey Brown reports.
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GWEN IFILL: U.S. forces killed the number two commander of the Pakistani Taliban today with a missile fired from a drone.

Jeffrey Brown has the story.

JEFFREY BROWN: Pakistani intelligence officials say this man, Wali-ur Rehman, was killed in the drone attack, along with four others. They say the drone fired missiles at a house in Miran Shah, a town inside the North Waziristan tribal region near the Afghanistan border.

Rehman had a five million dollar U.S. bounty on his head, but in Washington, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney wouldn’t confirm the attack or any deaths.

JAY CARNEY, White House Press Secretary: If those reports were true, or prove to be true, it’s worth noting that his demise would deprive the TTP, Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan, of its second in command and chief military strategist. Wali-ur Rehman has participated in cross-border attacks in Afghanistan against U.S. and NATO personnel and horrific attacks against Pakistani civilians and soldiers.

JEFFREY BROWN: For its part, the Pakistani Taliban denied the report of Rehman’s death, calling it false news.

And the Pakistani Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement saying, “Drone strikes violate the principles of national sovereignty, territorial integrity and international law.” There was no direct mention of Rehman.

Today’s strike came less than a week after President Obama said he’s implementing new restrictions on drone attacks, even as he defended their use.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: America doesn’t take strikes to punish individuals. We act against terrorists who pose a continuing and imminent threat to the American people, and when there are no other governments capable of effectively addressing the threat.

JEFFREY BROWN: The Pakistani government has been highly critical of U.S. strikes inside its borders, pointing to numerous civilians injured and killed in the attacks.

Incoming Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has strongly condemned the drone attacks, and he’s expected to press for an end to them. The Pakistani Taliban was responsible for numerous attacks leading up to this month’s elections. But Sharif has said he’s open to talks with the militants, in a bid to end the fighting in tribal areas.