In Depth

Taliban's No.2 leader 'killed' by US drone strike in Pakistan

Days after Obama promises to curtail drone strikes, unmanned aircraft kill four militants

SENIOR Taliban militants in Pakistan, including the organisation's second most senior commander, have reportedly been killed by a US drone strike overnight.

At least four people, including the Pakistani Taliban's deputy commander Wali ur-Rehman, were killed when the remote-controlled aircraft struck a target in the North Waziristan region, The Guardian reports.

The attack came just days after President Obama promised "new checks" on the use of drones against suspected terrorists, including special courts which would verify if a suspect could legitimately be killed in a "targeted assassination".

In his speech at the National Defense University in Washington DC on Thursday, Obama said he would curtail the use of drones as a counter-terrorism measure. But he said the weapons remained an essential way to eliminate senior al-Qaeda leaders who evaded capture and they would continue to be used against "forces that are massing to support attacks on coalition forces" in Afghanistan.

Those comments will have come as little comfort to Pakistan's political leaders who have faced public unrest over the widespread use of US drones in Pakistan. The unmanned aircraft have been used in 355 attacks in Pakistan since 2004 and killed more than 3,500 people, according to US think tank, the New America Foundation.

Nawaz Sharif, who won Pakistan's 11 May general election, and is due to be installed as prime minister next week, is opposed to the use of drones and campaigned on a promise to withdraw his country from the US's so-called war on terror. The latest drone attack is likely to "complicate" Sharif's first days in power, The Guardian says.

The Al Arabiya website says the death of ur-Rehman is a "major blow in the fight against militancy". He had been tipped to replace Hakimullah Mehsudas as the head of the Pakistan Taliban, a separate entity allied to the Afghan Taliban which have launched "devastating attacks" against the Pakistani military and civilians.

The drone strike reportedly took place in Chashma village near Miranshah, the main town of the lawless North Waziristan district.

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