ISLAMABAD - Suspected U.S. airstrikes in southeastern Afghanistan are believed to have killed a top commander of the extremist Pakistan Taliban and several of his partners.

The overnight attack took place in Bermal district of the Paktika province adjacent to the Pakistani border.

Rais Khan, also known as Azam Tariq, of the so-called Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, the TTP, and his son were among those reported killed in an overnight attack, according to militant sources.

The U.S. military Sunday confirmed to VOA it carried out two airstrikes in the area, but refrained from discussing details for “operational security reasons.”
“We can confirm that U.S. forces conducted two air strikes recently in Bermal district on September 24 and 25. I can tell you that one air strike was conducted under counter terrorism authorities and the other airstrike was conducted in defense of friendly forces,” it said.

The Afghan Defense Ministry said national forces conducted operations in Bermal late on Saturday, killing nine militants. It said the dead included two al-Qaida commanders, adding security forces also have seized weapons, suicide vests and communication equipment.

TTP has been waging a deadly insurgency on the state of Pakistan for over a decade. Most of it leaders and a large number of fighters fled to Afghanistan two years ago when the Pakistan military launched a major ground and air offensive against them in border areas.

The counterterrorism operation mainly focused on North Waziristan, once condemned an epicenter of international terrorism.

Pakistani authorities allege TTP extremists use Afghan sanctuaries with the help of the neighboring country’s spy agency for staging and plotting cross-border deadly attacks on civilians as well as security forces.

Kabul, which has long blamed Islamabad for covertly supporting the Afghan Taliban, rejects the charges.

The Pakistani Taliban is blamed for the killings of thousands of people in Pakistan during the past decade in terrorist attacks.

But the military says its offensive near the Afghan border areas has eliminated terrorist infrastructures and killed more than 3,500 militants, which has significantly reduced the violence.