ISLAMABAD – CIA missiles struck the sanctuary of the most-feared Afghan Taliban faction, narrowly missing its commander and killing his brother in the latest blow to the insurgents, Pakistani intelligence officials said Friday.
The attack against the Haqqani group, which has close ties to al-Qaeda, followed the arrest in Pakistan of the Afghan Taliban's No. 2 figure and two key Taliban "shadow governors" from northern Afghanistan.
Siraj Haqqani, leader of the Haqqani group, was the apparent target of the attack Thursday on a village in the insurgents' North Waziristan sanctuary, the officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Haqqani was in the village to attend a funeral. Afterward, he told his brother Mohammed Haqqani to drive his SUV to a hideout. Moments later Mohammed Haqqani and three other militants were killed when two missiles struck the vehicle, Pakistani and Taliban officials said Friday.
Had Siraj Haqqani been killed, it would have been a major setback to one of the most aggressive insurgent groups in Afghanistan. The fact that the U.S. came so close suggests the CIA is tightening the noose around the organization.
The two Haqqanis are sons of Jalaluddin Haqqani, a former U.S. ally in the war against the Soviets in the 1980s who has maintained close ties to the Pakistani military and intelligence for decades.
Washington has been pressing Pakistan to do more to capture militants who use the country to command the insurgency in Afghanistan, away from the threat from U.S. ground forces. At the same time, the CIA has stepped up missiles fired from unmanned drone planes at militant leaders in the tribal belt near the Afghan border.
In 2007, the U.S. offered a $200,000 reward for information leading to Siraj Haqqani's capture, an amount that has since been raised to $5 million.
Drone missile strikes have killed prominent Pakistani Taliban leaders in the tribal areas, including chief Baitullah Mehsud and his successor, Hakimullah Mehsud, officials said.
Thursday's strike at the heart of the Haqqani network also comes on the heels of the arrests in Pakistan of Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, second only to Taliban supreme chief Mullah Omar, and of Taliban "shadow governors" for two northern Afghan provinces.
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