- Two separate drone strikes target militants in Pakistan's tribal region, officials say
- One strike kills a Taliban leader with ties to the Pakistani government, the officials say
- Another strike kills four in North Waziristan, the officials say
Two suspected U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan's volatile tribal region left 15 people dead --- including a Taliban commander -- on Thursday, Pakistani intelligence officials said.
Among the 11 killed in one strike in the province of South Waziristan was a Taliban commander named Mullah Nazir, also known as Maulvi Nazir Wazir, the officials said.
The drone fired two missiles in the Sarkanda area of Birmil, killing Nazir, the officials said.
Nazir was at odds with the Pakistani Taliban over a peace agreement he signed with the Pakistani government in 2007. As part of the deal, he refused to attack Pakistani government or military targets, though he was believed to be behind a number of attacks that targeted the U.S. military.
Nazir narrowly escaped a suicide bomb attack in early December. After the attack, he warned the Mehsud tribe, which includes Pakistani Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud, to vacate South Waziristan or face consequences.
Also killed in the strike were two of Nazir's deputies, the officials said.
The second drone strike targeted a vehicle in the town of Mir Ali in North Waziristan, killing four, the officials said.
The drone fired a missile that struck the vehicle. It then fired two more missiles as people rushed to try to rescue the occupants, the officials said.
In recent years, the U.S. government has sharply stepped up the use of drone attacks in Pakistan's mostly ungoverned tribal region, widely believed to be a safe haven for militant groups fueling the insurgency in Afghanistan. U.S. officials say the drone strikes are an effective strategy against militant groups and insist civilian casualties are rare.