Peshawar: Pakistani Taliban's top commander Qari Hussain Mehsud, best known as the trainer of suicide bombers, has been killed in a US drone strike in the country's restive tribal belt, a provincial minister said today.
"Qari Hussain was killed in a drone strike," Khyber- Pakhtunkhwa Information Minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain told PTI.
The Taliban commander died in North Waziristan tribal region in the first week of October. There was no word from the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan on the development.
Analysts said that if the report is confirmed, it would be a serious blow to the Taliban.
Noting that another Taliban leader named Azmatullah had also been killed, Hussain said the government would succeed in eliminating militants in 2011.
Several militant commanders, including Taliban chief Baitullah Mehsud, and al-Qaeda operatives have been killed in hundreds of missile strikes carried out by US drones in the tribal belt bordering Afghanistan.
Qari Hussain had been running a training camp for suicide bombers in South Waziristan and was blamed for several attacks across Pakistan.
He had claimed responsibility for two suicide attacks on Shia processions in Lahore and Quetta in September last year.
Qari Hussain was a cousin of Hakimullah Mehsud, the current chief of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan. The Taliban had named him "Ustad-e-Fidayeen" (teacher of suicide bombers).
There have been reports of his death on several occasions in the past but they proved to be incorrect.
Qari Hussain was reported dead after his home was destroyed in January 2008 but appeared before the media in May the same year.
He was later reported killed in an air strike at Makeen in South Waziristan in June 2009 but later telephoned reporters to prove he was alive.
The Pakistan government initially announced a reward of Rs 10 million for the killing or capture of Qari Hussain.
In November 2009, the reward was increased to Rs 50 million.