ISLAMABAD — At least six people were killed in a US drone strike in Pakistan’s restive northwestern tribal areas early Friday, according to government officials and local news reports.
The drone was directed at a house in the Ghulam Khan area of North Waziristan tribal region, close to the border with Afghanistan.
A security official who requested anonymity said that Sangin Zadran, a network commander and the ranking Haqqani official in the region, had been killed.
“He was the most influential commander in the area,” the official said. “The Americans had been after him for a long time.”
North Waziristan has long been a haven for Taliban and Al Qaeda militants.
American drone strikes are deeply unpopular in the country, and opposition to them has become an essential staple of local politics and grievances against the United States. Pakistani politicians and government officials condemn the missile strikes, which are directed by the CIA, as a violation of the country’s sovereignty.
Opposition politicians such as Imran Khan, leader of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf political party, have campaigned against the strikes, saying they cause more civilian casualties than militant killings. In October 2012, Khan led a big protest rally to the edges of the tribal regions against the use of drones on Pakistani soil.
The number of drone strikes has, however, dropped sharply in recent months. The last one occurred last Saturday, when at least four suspected militants were killed in an attack in North Waziristan.
US Secretary of State John Kerry hinted in a visit to Pakistan earlier in August that the drone strikes could end soon.
“The program will end as we have eliminated most of the threat and continue to eliminate it,” Kerry said on state-run television. “I think the president has a very real timeline, and we hope it’s going to be very, very soon.”