'Good Taliban' Mullah Nazir killed in US drone attack

Jan 3, 2013

Fears that violence will escalate after killing of Taliban leader praised for peaceful stance with Pakistan

THE DEATH of leading Taliban leader Mullah Nazir, killed on Thursday by an unmanned US drone, has been met with remorse in some quarters, with one or two obits even describing his as a "good" Taliban.

Nazir, believed to be in his 30s, died with at least five other fighters when two missiles fired from a drone struck his vehicle in the north-west tribal district of South Waziristan, close to the Afghan border.

Nazir's "good Taliban" title originated from early 2012 when he signed a peace pact with the Pakistani military, reported the New York Times. In it he promised not to attack Pakistani soldiers or government facilities – a position at odds with other Pakistan Taliban commanders. Instead he sent his troops to attacks inside Afghanistan against Nato and Afghan government forces.

Rob Crilly in the Daily Telegraph wrote that Nazir was "different" to other Taliban leaders. Crilly warned: "His death could upset the careful balance that the Pakistan military has tried to build in the troubled tribal areas that border Afghanistan."

However, some experts insisted he was a legitimate target. Imtiaz Gul, an author and expert on the country's tribal belt, said: "Both Pakistan and the US should be pleased he is gone because he was undermining Pakistan's stated position of disrupting, denying and degrading al-Qaeda."

The Americans will point to the killing as a vindication of their controversial drone programme, said the BBC's Aleem Maqbool in Islamabad. For years he was a key figure involved in supplying fighters and support to the Afghan insurgency, Maqbool said.

Ironically, given the means of his death, in 2012 Nazir banned polio vaccinators until US drone strikes came to an end. He claimed the health workers were a cover for the CIA to target militants with drones – just like the one that killed him.

The US does not normally comment on individual drone operations, but last year it emerged in the New York Times that the US president Barack Obama personally approved or vetoed each drone strike.

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