DERA ISMAIL KHAN, Pakistan (Reuters) - A U.S. drone strike killed a Pakistani Taliban leader and two others on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, the Taliban said on Thursday, in the latest attack by an unmanned aircraft targeting the Afghan bases of Pakistani Taliban leaders.
Two Pakistani intelligence officials confirmed Thursday’s strike on the border between Pakistan’s Kurram agency and Afghanistan.
The strike killed Pakistani Taliban commander Khawray Mehsud, who possessed “great militant skills,” the Taliban said in a statement.
“He was very close to martyred (Pakistani Taliban) chief Hakimullah Mehsud and was his personal bodyguard,” it added.
The Pakistani Taliban are allied with the Afghan militants of the same name and share a similar jihadist ideology.
But they operate as a separate entity, focused on toppling the Pakistani state and establishing strict Islamic rule in the nuclear-armed nation.
The strikes come amid warming relations between the traditionally hostile neighbors, each of whom has accused the other of harboring insurgents to act as proxy forces.
Relations improved after Afghan President Ashraf Ghani was elected last year. Pakistan is supporting potential peace talks between the Afghan government and Afghan Taliban.
Diplomats hope that Pakistan will be able to pressurize the Afghan Taliban to join peace talks, by threatening their bases in the country.
But Pakistan also wants to see action against Pakistani insurgents hiding in Afghanistan.
Additional reporting by Jibran Ahmad in Peshawar and Syed Raza Hassan; Writing by Katharine Houreld; Editing by Clarence Fernandez