A senior commander of Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has been killed in US drone strikes in Afghanistan’s Khost province, Pakistani intelligence officials told Al Jazeera.
Khalid Mehsud – alias Khan Said Sajna – was killed with 12 fighters on Wednesday when four US drones carried out strikes in the Damma area of Afghanistan, close to Pakistan’s North Waziristan province, the officials said on condition of anonymity.
However, Azam Tariq, spokesman for Sajna’s faction of the Pakistani Taliban, denied the reports, saying the leader was still alive. Tariq said he was with Sajna hours before the alleged attack and would have known if he had been killed.
Sajna, formerly chief of the TTP’s South Waziristan unit, has led a breakaway faction of the armed group that has waged a bloody rebellion against the Pakistani state.
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The US State Department listed Sajna as a “terrorist” on October 21 last year for his alleged involvement in the May 2011 attack on Mehran Naval Base in Karachi. That attack killed 10 people and destroyed two US-supplied maritime surveillance planes.
The Pakistan Taliban commander had been fighting alongside the Afghan Taliban against US-led NATO forces in Afghanistan.
He formed his own faction after Mullah Fazlullah was appointed TTP chief after the killing of Hakeemullah Mehsud in a US drone attack on November 1, 2013.
The reported strikes on Wednesday come days after a US drone killed 45 fighters, mostly Pakistani Taliban fighters, in Afghanistan’s Khost province.
Security officials said 25 bodies were taken to the Dir district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province in Pakistan.
The controversial US drone programme in Pakistan has slowed sharply in recent months because of political opposition.