Pakistani warlord Mullah Nazir, who sent men to fight NATO troops in Afghanistan, was killed in a US drone strike in Pakistan along with five loyalists, local security officials said Thursday.
He was the main militant commander in South Waziristan, part of Pakistan's northwestern tribal belt considered a base for Al-Qaeda, the Taliban and other Islamist militants, and a powerful elder in the Wazir tribe.
A US drone fired two missiles at his vehicle in the Sar Kanda area of Birmil in Pakistan's northwestern tribal district of South Waziristan and two of his most senior deputies were among those killed, the Pakistani officials said.
"Mullah Nazir and five associates died on the spot," one of the officials told AFP on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak publicly.
The official said the attack happened at 10:35 pm on Wednesday (1735 GMT) but that it had taken time to confirm the reports from such a far-flung and mountainous area along the Afghan border.
Nazir, who was wounded in a suicide attack in South Waziristan on November 29, confined his militant activities to Afghanistan, where he opposed the presence of US and NATO troops fighting an 11-year Afghan Taliban insurgency.
He, as well as North Waziristan commander Hafiz Gul Bahadur, was understood to be close to the Al-Qaeda-linked Haqqani network, a faction of the Afghan Taliban blamed for some of the most high-profile attacks in Afghanistan.
Another Pakistani security official said Nazir and his fighters were targeted as they were trying to swap vehicles when their double cabin pick-up encountered a mechanical fault.
Two of his influential deputies Atta Ullah and Rafey Khan were among those killed, the official added.
Nazir's fighters have previously been targeted by US drone strikes. He reached a peace deal with Islamabad in 2007 and had testy relations with the Pakistani Taliban, who have been waging a domestic insurgency since 2007.
Another US drone strike killed four militants in the neighbouring district of North Waziristan on Thursday, but their identities were not immediately known, the officials said.