Rebel tribal leader is killed in Pakistan

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The Independent Online

Nek Mohammed, the young Pashtun who led the tribal resistance that frustrated and humiliated the Pakistani military in their attempts to hunt down al-Qa'ida leaders, was killed yesterday.

Nek Mohammed, the young Pashtun who led the tribal resistance that frustrated and humiliated the Pakistani military in their attempts to hunt down al-Qa'ida leaders, was killed yesterday.

He was fast emerging as a popular and dangerous resistance leader against President Pervez Musharraf's rule and only last week threatened in a telephone interview with the BBC Pashto service to take his fight against the establishment into Pakistan's cities.

Pakistan said its security forces had tracked Mohammed to the home of another tribal leader in South Waziristan and killed him there, but there were unconfirmed suggestions that he may have been killed by a missile fired from an American unmanned drone.

Thousands streamed to his funeral. He was hugely popular in Pakistan's Pashtun tribal areas for his defiance of the government's demand to hand over al-Qa'ida leaders and other foreign militants suspected of sheltering there.

When the Pakistani military, under pressure from the Americans, broke with an arrangement to stay out of the tribal areas in an attempt to hunt them down, tribal forces led by Mohammed comprehensively humiliated them.

In March, Pakistan said its troops had a senior al-Qa'ida leader, possibly even Osama bin Laden's deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, cornered in South Waziristan. In fact the man they had trapped was Tahir Yuldashev, from Uzbekistan. It was Mohammed who got him out, charging an army cordon in a bullet-proof pick-up with Yuldashev on board.

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