Senior Taliban commander reported killed in South Waziristan

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Eight South Waziristan Taliban commanders, pictured in a ‘wanted’ poster: 1. Hakeemullah Mehsud, 2. Waliur Rehman Mehsud, 3. Qari Hussain Mehsud, 4. Azam Tariq, 5. Maulvi Azmatullah, 6. Mufti Noor Wali, 7. Asmatullah Bhittani, 8. Mohammad Anwar Gandapur.

The Pakistani military claimed that it killed one of the top Taliban commanders in the contested tribal agency of South Waziristan.

Asmatullah Bhittani, who also goes by the name Shaheen, is reported to have been killed during a clash with the Pakistani Army in the town of Sararogha in South Waziristan in early December, officials told AFP.

Asmatullah was among the 20 most-wanted Taliban commanders operating in South Waziristan, Tank, and Dera Ismail Khan. In 2009, the Pakistani government placed a $120,000 bounty on his head.

He served as a military commander in the towns of Jandola and Tank in the district of Tank and reported to Hakeemullah Mehsud, the leader of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan. Late last year, many Taliban commanders fled the Mehsud tribal areas of South Waziristan to avoid the Pakistani Army offensive that was launched in October 2009. Seeking to escape the military dragnet, the Taliban commanders fled to North Waziristan, Arakzai, Kurram, Khyber, and to areas in South Waziristan that are under the control of Mullah Nazir.

In 2009, Asmatullah and some of his fighters relocated to the southern port city of Karachi, where he continued attacks. On Dec. 30, 2009, Asmatullah claimed that one of his fighters carried out the Dec. 28 suicide attack against a Shia religious procession in Karachi that killed 43 people and wounded more than 100.

So far, only two other commanders on the ‘wanted’ list for South Waziristan have been killed or captured. On Nov. 27, 2009, Pakistani forces detained Abdullah Shah Mehsud, a military commander, during a raid in Tank, a district that borders South Waziristan. And on July 5, 2010, Pakistani forces killed Ameerullah Mehsud, another military commander in South Waziristan who is believed to have aided in many of the terror attacks in Pakistan’s tribal areas and in the heart of the country.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

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