ISLAMABAD: An Al-Qaida operations chief in Pakistan and an Uzbek militant commander were believed killed in US missile strikes in the northwest of the country earlier this month, Pakistani officials said Thursday.
If confirmed, the deaths of Ilyas Kashmiri and Nazimuddin, alias Yahyo, indicate America's policy of using unmanned drones to attack targets on Pakistan's side of the Afghan border is working.
The tactic has been publicly criticized by the Pakistani government, but many believe officials here secretly endorse it.
Operations chief Ilyas Kashmiri, a Pakistani national, was believed killed in a September 7 attack on a compound in North Waziristan, said an intelligence officer and a senior government official.
A strike in the same region on September 14 that destroyed a vehicle is believed to have killed Nazimuddin, the officials said.
They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media about the topic.
They said the information was based on intercepted communications between militants and from informers in their ranks.
Speaking last week, a US counterterrorism official said Kashmiri was in charge of al-Qaida's paramilitary operations in Pakistan and had also been active in recruiting and training operatives to conduct attacks outside of Pakistan.
The US official also did not give his name because he was not authorized to speak on the record.
The Pakistani officials said Kashmiri was also accused of playing role in failed assassination attempts against former President Pervez Musharraf.
Little is know about Nazimuddin, but a man bearing the same name and alias appears on a US Treasury list of individuals - most of whom are alleged Islamist terrorists whose assets are blocked.
The United States has fired more than 50 missiles from unmanned drones into the tribal regions since last year in a campaign targeting al-Qaida and Taliban commanders. Several top leaders have been killed, including Pakistani Taliban chief Baitullah Meshud last month.
Pakistan protests the US missile strikes as violations of its sovereignty and says they fan support for the insurgents, but Washington has shown no sign of abandoning a tactic that it says has killed several ranking militants and disrupted their operations.