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Thursday
Jan032013

Drone Strike Kills Top Taliban Commander in Pakistan

JOEL SAGET/AFP/Getty Images(ISLAMABAD) -- A top Taliban commander who targeted U.S. troops in Afghanistan was killed in an American drone strike in Pakistan along with nine of his comrades, intelligence and local sources confirm to ABC News.

The Taliban leader, Maulvi Nazir, died in an attack on a compound in Angoor Ada, a border town in South Waziristan, on Wednesday.

Nazir was a powerful and undisputed leader of the Wazir tribe of Waziristan and told ABC News in 2009 that his forces were intent on killing American troops.

"We have readied suicide bombers for them, they cannot escape us," Nazir said in the exclusive interview.

Nazir and the Pakistani military have long had an unwritten peace agreement, allowing Nazir to focus on attacking troops in Afghanistan.  The U.S. has been hunting him for years, but experts warned his death could anger the Pakistani military and open the South Waziristan tribal area to more internal fighting.

Nazir was in power in 2002 when Islamic fighters from various countries converged on South Waziristan to escape the U.S. bombing in Afghanistan.  He rose to prominence, however, in 2007 after he successfully defeated and evicted fighters of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan from South Waziristan.

Nazir opposed fighting Pakistani government forces and concentrated on attacking NATO and Afghan forces across the border in neighboring Afghanistan.  That policy put him at odds with a faction led by Hakeemullah Mehsud, the commander of the Taliban movement of Pakistan, and disrupted an alliance the two had made.

After a failed suicide attack on his life, Nazir ordered all the Mehsud tribesmen to leave the area under his command.

Analysts say that his death will leave a significant impact on his followers and South Waziristan.  He had led them right from the beginning.

"The area can erupt in violence," says retired Brig. Gen. Asad Munir, a former intelligence chief in North Western Pakistan.

Peace in the region may also depend on what kind of arrangement Nazir's successor wants with the Pakistan Army -- whether he wants to concentrate his fighting in Pakistan or keep focusing it on Afghanistan.

One thing is for sure that "his followers will not take this lying down," says Munir.

Nazir was buried Thursday morning in Azam Warsak and a replacement has already been chosen.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio