An American drone attack in northwestern Pakistan is believed to have killed a high-profile militant commander along with several of his aides.
Tribal sources and local Pakistani officials confirmed Friday the strike took place a day earlier near the Afghan border in North Waziristan tribal district.
They said the deputy chief of the outlawed Pakistani Taliban, Khan Said Mehsud, also known as Sajna, was returning from the adjacent Afghan border province of Khost when missiles fired from an unmanned aircraft hit his vehicle.
The militant group has not yet commented on the reported deaths.
Foreign Ministry spokesman, Mohammad Faisal, told reporters in Islamabad Friday he was unaware of the drone strike.
“I have seen some reports on social media about a drone strike, but I have not heard anything from our relevant security agencies,” Faisal said.
It is extremely rare for U.S. authorities to comment on CIA-run drone operations in Pakistan.
Sajna was believed to be residing in Khost and was returning to the Waziristan region with his fighters when the drone hit them, according to sources within his Mehsud tribe.
Washington has designated Sajna a global terrorist.
The slain commander was also believed to be closely linked to the Haqqani network blamed for staging high-profile terrorist attacks against local and U.S.-led forces in Afghanistan.
Afghan and U.S. officials have long alleged insurgents use sanctuaries in Pakistan for planning deadly attacks on the other side of the border, charges Islamabad denies.
Pakistani authorities suspect Sajna played a role in planning major terrorist attacks in the country and was instrumental in a jailbreak in 2012 in the northwestern town of Bannu that freed about 400 inmates, including militants.
Details of the latest U.S. drone attack emerged as an Afghan delegation led by the neighboring country’s deputy foreign minister, Hekmat Khalil Karzai, opened a new round of wide-ranging talks Friday with Pakistani counterparts in Islamabad.
Spokesman Faisal said the two sides under the Afghanistan-Pakistan Action Plan for Peace and Solidarity engagement are discussing counterterrorism cooperation, repatriation of Afghan refugees from Pakistan, and ways to promote a peaceful settlement to the Afghan conflict.
The discussions come amid heightened bilateral tensions following a spate of deadly Taliban attacks in Kabul and elsewhere in Afghanistan. The Afghan government alleged the violence was plotted in Pakistan.