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July 31, 2014

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Pakistan: US drones kill 13, including commander

PESHAWAR, Pakistan — A pair of U.S. drone strikes in northwest Pakistan near the Afghan border killed 13 people Thursday, including a senior militant commander who had a truce with the Pakistani military, intelligence officials and residents said.

Five Pakistani security officials said the commander, Maulvi Nazir, was reportedly among nine people killed in a missile strike on a house in the village of Angoor Adda in the South Waziristan tribal region early Thursday. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief the media.

Nazir's death could prove to be a contentious issue between Washington and Islamabad, which is believed to have struck a nonaggression pact with Nazir ahead of the Pakistani military's 2009 operation against militants in South Waziristan. While Nazir earned the U.S.'s enmity by launching attacks against American forces in Afghanistan, the Pakistani military views commanders like Nazir as key to keeping the peace internally because they do not attack Pakistani targets.

Residents in both Angoor Adda and Wana, the biggest town in South Waziristan, said they heard announcements on mosque loudspeakers announcing Nazir's death and that a funeral service was to be held later Thursday.

Reports of individual deaths are difficult to independently verify, and the U.S. rarely comments on its secretive drone program.

The second drone strike took place near Mir Ali, the main town of the North Waziristan tribal region. One missile hit a vehicle near the town, followed by another missile when people rushed to the vehicle to help people in the car. The officials say four people were killed in the strike, although the identities of the dead were not immediately known.

Nazir was attacked by a suicide bomber last November as he was arriving at an office he used to meet with locals and hear their complaints. Nazir and more than a dozen other people were wounded in the attack, and seven people were killed.

No group claimed responsibility for the attack, but suspicion immediately fell on rival militants who have been jockeying with Nazir for power in South Waziristan.

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