Islamabad: Al Qaeda has confirmed one of its
commanders died last month in an American drone strike in
Pakistan, a program that is a major source of tension stalling
the relationship between Washington and Islamabad.
The death of Badr Mansoor in the strike along the border
with Afghanistan is significant because he was believed to be
behind many of the suicide attacks that have killed scores of
Pakistani civilians in recent years.
It could also be used by supporters of the campaign in
Washington and Islamabad as an example of how drone attacks
benefit both countries.
The US-based SITE monitoring service said today that the
confirmation of Mansoor`s death came in a video statement by
Ahmad Farooq, al Qaeda`s head of media and preaching in
Pakistan. The video has been released on an internet jihadist
Faced with strong public anger over the drone attacks,
Pakistani officials publicly condemn them as an unacceptable
violations of sovereignty that boost support for extremism.
But privately, the program has long had some level of
official sanction and even cooperation.
Local Taliban fighters had previously said Mansoor was
killed in the February 9 strike but there was no confirmation
from the US or Pakistan.
A militant video eulogizing the dead is considered the
most reliable way of knowing when a top commander has been
In the nine-minute video, which featured photos of Mansoor
alive and dead, Farooq accused Pakistan of collaborating with
the strikes, emphasising its apparent hypocrisy.
"America is now more eagerly attacking the Pakistani
government`s targets," he said. "The drone program is being
run with the full consent, permission and cooperation of the
The strikes, which began in earnest in 2008, have killed
scores of militants, including foreign al Qaeda members
involved in plotting attacks on the West.
Their frequency increased in 2010 and they hit militants
widely seen as being proxies of the Pakistani army, causing
friction in U.S-Pakistan ties.
Amid the tensions, the number of attacks dropped in 2011
and even more since November, when US aircraft mistakenly
killed 24 Pakistani troops on the Afghan border.
Pakistan blocked US supply routes into Afghanistan in
protest and said it was renegotiating its ties with Washington
as a result.
The issue of drone strikes, their frequency, targeting and
whether Pakistan should be informed ahead of them is key to
ongoing, back-channel negotiations to restart that
relationship, which is important for America`s hopes of
withdrawing from Afghanistan.