ISLAMABAD - The outlawed Pakistani Taliban has confirmed the killing of 21 of its members in an American drone strike in neighboring Afghanistan this past Wednesday.
The attack in the eastern Afghan border province of Kunar targeted a training camp of the so-called Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, or TTP, where would-be suicide bombers were being trained, according to Afghan officials and Pakistani intelligence sources.
Officials said several militant commanders and the "master trainer" at the facility were among the slain men preparing to launch suicide attacks in Pakistan.
A TTP statement issued Friday confirmed that a teenage son of the group's chief, Mullah Fazlullah, also was killed, and the terror group vowed to avenge the deadly strike. The militant group claimed the U.S. drone hit a "madrassa” or religious seminary and those killed were “students and teachers.”
The militant confirmation comes a day after the United States announced it was offering a $5 million reward for information on Fazlullah and $3 million each for two other anti-Pakistan militant commanders believed to be operating out of the Afghan border regions.
"Each of these individuals is believed to have committed, or to pose a significant risk of committing, acts of terrorism that threaten the security of the United States and its nationals," the State Department said Thursday.
It noted that Fazlullah and two other militant leaders, Abdul Wali and Mangal Bagh, also pose threats to Pakistan and U.S.-led coalition troops in Afghanistan.
Pakistani officials maintain TTP leaders and allied militant groups have established sanctuaries in "ungoverned" areas of Afghanistan after fleeing anti-terrorism operations in tribal regions on the porous border between the two countries.
Islamabad has been calling on Washington and Kabul to stop the militants from plotting and launching attacks against Pakistan.
For their part, U.S. and Afghan officials accuse Pakistan of harboring the leaders of the Afghan Taliban and militants linked to the allied Haqqani network, charges Islamabad denies.
Wali heads Jamaat ul-Ahrar, a TTP affiliate, and Bagh leads Lashkar-i-Islam, a militant outfit known for staging attacks on convoys transporting non-lethal military equipment to NATO troops in Afghanistan.