ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - A CIA drone strike in Pakistan may have killed the operational commander of the Haqqani network, the insurgent group behind some of the most high-profile attacks on Western and Afghan government targets in Afghanistan, Pakistani intelligence officials and militant sources said on Saturday.
The officials said Badruddin Haqqani, who is also believed to handle the network's vital business interests and smuggling operations, may have been killed during a drone strike this week in Pakistan's tribal North Waziristan region.One senior Pakistani intelligence official said Badruddin had fled a compound that he and other militants were in after it was hit by a missile, then was killed by a second drone strike on a car that he was in.
There was no official word on Badruddin's fate from the Haqqani network. Other intelligence officials were more cautious.
"The Lone Wolf kills 25 on tuesday but misses the mark"!
on Friday his second missile hits the mark.
"Our informers have told us that he has been killed in the drone attack on the 21st but we cannot confirm it," said one of the Pakistani intelligence officials.
If Badruddin's death is confirmed, it could deal a major blow to the Haqqanis, one of the United States's most feared enemies in Afghanistan.
The Haqqanis are the most experienced fighters in Afghanistan and the loss of one of the group's most important leaders could ease pressure on NATO as it prepares to withdraw most of its combat troops at the end of 2014.
"We are 90 percent sure that he was in the same house which was attacked with a drone on Tuesday," said another Pakistani intelligence official.
Sources close to the Haqqqani network also said Badruddin was believed to be in the house, hit by a drone strike as militants were planting explosives in a vehicle meant to be used for an attack on NATO forces in Afghanistan.
"The drone fired two missiles on the house last Tuesday and killed 25 people, most of them members of the Haqqani family," one of the sources said.
Pakistani Taliban and tribal sources said they believed Badruddin was killed in the drone attack.
One of Badruddin's relatives said he was alive and busy with his "jihad activities".
"Such claims are baseless," he told Reuters. Another relative told Reuters Badruddin is "alive and well".
Afghanistan's Taliban movement, allies of the Haqqani network, said Badruddin was alive.