- Associated Press - Monday, June 27, 2011

DERA ISMAIL KHAN, Pakistan — Gunmen in a car with tinted windows near the Afghan border Monday fatally shot a senior Pakistani Taliban commander who helped train and deploy the group’s suicide bombers, Pakistani intelligence officials said.

Shakirullah Shakir was riding on a motorcycle near Miran Shah, the main town in the North Waziristan tribal area, when he was shot, the officials said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief the media.

Shakir was a senior commander and spokesman for the Fidayeen-e-Islam wing of the Pakistani Taliban. He once claimed to a local newspaper that his group had trained more than 1,000 suicide bombers at camps in North Waziristan.

No group has claimed responsibility for his killing.

Both North Waziristan and South Waziristan are key sanctuaries for the Pakistani Taliban, which has declared war on the U.S.-allied Pakistani government.

Missiles believed to have been fired by a U.S. drone hit a pickup truck in the Dra Nishter area of South Waziristan on Monday, killing eight suspected militants, Pakistani intelligence officials added.

Dra Nishter is a Pakistani Taliban stronghold near the border with North Waziristan and has been hit twice before by suspected U.S. drones in recent months. The Pakistani military launched a large ground offensive in South Waziristan in 2009, but Pakistani Taliban fighters are still active in the area.

Elsewhere in the northwest, a senior Pakistani Taliban commander said Monday he is splitting from the group to protest attacks against civilians, a rare criticism of the militants by one of their own.

Fazal Saeed said he is forming his own group, Tehrik-e-Taliban Islami, and will focus on fighting NATO troops in Afghanistan. The Pakistani Taliban, or Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, is mainly focused on battling the Pakistani government.

Mr. Saeed, leader of the Pakistani Taliban in the Kurram tribal area near the Afghan border, accused the group of targeting civilians in suicide attacks and bombings in mosques.

“We have repeatedly protested over killing unarmed and innocent people in these attacks, but no heed was paid, so we are splitting from Tehrik-e-Taliban [Pakistan],” Mr. Saeed told the Associated Press by phone from an undisclosed location.

Thousands of civilians have been killed in attacks in Pakistan. The Pakistani Taliban often deny responsibility for attacks that kill large numbers of civilians, but they are widely believed to carry out the assaults.

It’s unclear whether Mr. Saeed’s decision to split from the group is related to plans by the Pakistani army to launch a military offensive soon in Kurram. The army has cut deals in the past to avoid targeting groups that fight in Afghanistan as long as they agree not to attack Pakistan.

Also Monday, a member of Pakistan’s ruling coalition, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement, announced his party is pulling out of the government at both the national level and in the southern Sindh province because of disputes over legislative assembly elections held in Pakistan-held Kashmir on Sunday.

Farooq Sattar, MQM’s senior leader in parliament, also announced that the governor of Sindh, who is a member of the party, would resign in protest.

MQM’s decision does not rob the ruling Pakistan People’s Party of a majority in the national parliament.

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