ISLAMABAD – A U.S. drone strike reportedly killed a notorious Pakistani al-Qaida operative before dawn Thursday in a tribal area bordering Afghanistan, the latest sign that the United States and Pakistan are stepping up coordinated intelligence operations despite a downturn in relations.
The apparent CIA drone strike on a compound in Miranshah, the main town in the North Waziristan tribal area, reportedly killed four militants, including Badar Mansoor, the head of a small militant outfit that carries his name.
Mansoor wasn’t considered a high-value terrorist target by the FBI, but he had been listed since at least 2009 in the so-called red book of terror suspects maintained by Pakistan’s Interior Ministry. He also was a close associate of Ilyas Kashmiri, the head of al-Qaida’s operation in Pakistan until his death in a drone strike last year.
The attack was at least the fourth drone strike in a month and came a day after American, Afghan and Pakistani military officials met to discuss resuming cooperation on border security, which has been suspended since 24 Pakistani soldiers were killed in a friendly fire incident in November.
Security analysts in Islamabad said pinpoint assassinations are virtually impossible unless the CIA has detailed information from its Pakistani counterpart, the military’s Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate.
Pakistan’s government denies complicity in the drone strikes and frequently complains about them as violations of its sovereignty. But diplomatic cables obtained by WikiLeaks laid bare in December 2010 the Pakistani government’s involvement, and security analysts say officials complain mainly about U.S. drone strikes carried out without their knowledge.
Mansoor was a former member of the Harakat-ul-Mujahideen, a Pakistani militant group that trained with al-Qaida in the 1990s and fought Indian security forces in Kashmir, a territory disputed by India and Pakistan. Its fighters also fought alongside the Taliban in Afghanistan.
Mansoor split with the outfit in 2007.