Night raid kills Nek, four other militants: Wana operation
By Ismail Khan and Dilawar Khan Wazir
PESHAWAR/WANA, June 18: Security forces have killed Nek Mohammad and four other tribal militants in a missile attack on a village in Wana, the regional headquarters of the South Waziristan Agency.
"Nek Mohammad was suspected to be present in a hideout with his associates and our security forces acted swiftly on the information and that is how he was killed," a military spokesman said on Friday.
Residents of Shah Nawaz Kot, a small hamlet about two kilometres south of Scouts Camp, said the 27-year-old militant was killed when his hideout was hit by a missile. The attack was reportedly carried out at 10pm on Thursday night when Nek Mohammad was taking dinner along with his colleagues in the courtyard of the house of his long-time friend, the late Sher Zaman Ashrafkhel, an Afghan refugee from his Ahmadzai Wazir tribe.
Also killed were two sons of Nek's two mujahideen friends and his hosts, Fakhar Zaman and Azmat Khan. Eyewitnesses said that Nek Mohammad and Azmat Khan were taken to the agency headquarters hospital in a critical condition where they succumbed to their injuries. The other militants died on the spot.
Witnesses said that Nek Mohammad's face bore burn marks and his left hand and leg appeared to have been badly injured in the explosion. "Why aren't you putting a bandage on my arm," were his last words, those accompanying Nek Mohammad to the hospital quoted him as saying.
A trained pro-Taliban fighter, who fought the US and Northern Alliance forces at Bagram, north of Kabul, Nek Mohammad rose to fame following a bloody clash with security forces in Kaloosha last March.
The tribal militant broke through the security cordon with his guest, the leader of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, Qari Tahir Yaldashev, in his bullet proof car, amid a hail of bullets and rockets.
The encounter won him fame and later he figured in several propaganda video CDs exhorting Muslims to wage jihad. For the tribesmen in South Waziristan, he became a symbol of defiance and was likened to the legendary tribal hero Faqir Ippi who had fought the British.
Nek Mohammad and his four other companions were declared wanted by the government for harbouring and facilitating foreign militants. However, after the Kaloosha operation, he was granted amnesty at an official ceremony at Shakai on April 24 on the undertaking that he would not use Pakistan's soil against any other country.
The agreement collapsed when the government insisted that foreign militants must be handed over for registration. The tribal militant, however, denied this had been part of the agreement.
"Those foreigners who are living here are not terrorists, rather they are mujahideen who took part in the Afghan jihad," he had told the BBC Pushto service in an interview this week.
Witnesses said that a spy drone was seen flying overheard minutes before the missile attack. There were also reports that Nek Mohammad was speaking on a satellite phone when the missile struck, fuelling speculations that he might have been hit by a guided missile.
The precision with which the missile landed right in the middle of the courtyard where Nek Mohammad and his colleagues were sitting, lent credence to the theory. Locals said that the missile created a six feet crater.
An associate of Nek Mohammad, who called the BBC Pushto office in Peshawar, also said that the tribal militant had been killed while speaking on a satellite phone. The Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) declined to speculate on how the militant had been killed.
"We have various means and a full array of weapons at our disposal. We have artillery that can fire with precision and we have helicopters with night vision capability which can fire guided missiles. But I am not going to give out operational secrets on how he was killed," ISPR Director-General Maj-Gen Shaukat Sultan told Dawn by phone from Islamabad.
"Absolutely absurd," was his response when asked about rumours that Nek Mohammad had been killed with the US assistance. "Intelligence is like a jigsaw puzzle, it does not come from a single source on a single time," Gen Sultan said.
"Nek Mohammad was on the satellite phone literally everyday giving out interviews to foreign broadcasts," he added. Thousands of mourners gathered at Nek Mohammad's native area, Kaloosha, about 10km to the west of Wana, to attend his funeral.
Not seen at the funeral, however, were his four comrades, who along with Nek Mohammad, had once been declared wanted for harbouring foreign militants, and later pardoned.
"I did not surrender to the government. That's totally wrong. Surrender means you give up your mission and everything and this is not the case. I stand by my point of view and will fight till the end," he had told the BBC Pushto service in his last interview.
Gen Shaukat Sultan said the security forces were prepared for any kind of reaction. "He was a local Al Qaeda sympathiser. That much has to be realized that there may be some kind of reaction or backlash but our security forces are prepared for that kind of reaction."