Islamabad/Washington: American officials said they had strong indications that Badruddin Haqqani, the operational commander of the Haqqani network, was killed in a drone strike on Friday which claimed at least 18 lives, US media reported on Saturday.

"There are indications that Haqqani has met his demise," a newspaper quoted a senior US official in Washington as saying.

He said that officials were waiting to sift through evidence, including information on jihadist web sites, before they could be certain that Haqqani was dead, Pakistani news agency Online reported.

The caution stems from previous erroneous claims by American and Pakistani officials about militant deaths in Waziristan.

The newspaper said Haqqani, who is in his 30s, runs the Haqqani network's day-to-day militant operations, handles high-profile kidnappings and manages its lucrative smuggling operations, according to a recent report by the Combating Terrorism Center. He is considered second in seniority to the Haqqani network's leader, his older brother Sirajuddin Haqqani.

Both men are believed to direct operations in Afghanistan from their haven in North Waziristan, it said. In August 2011, Afghan intelligence released intercepts of Badruddin Haqqani directing a daring assault on Kabul's Intercontinental Hotel; three years before that he held a reporter for The New York Times, David Rohde, hostage.

"Badruddin Haqqani has been at the centre of coalition attacks in Afghanistan as well as mischief in Pakistan," said the American official who spoke on condition of anonymity.

By Friday evening, reports of Haqqani's death were circulating in Pakistan's tribal belt. In Washington, the CIA declined to comment, as did the White House.

The last major successful drone strike in Pakistan was the assassination of the Al Qaeda deputy leader, Abu Yahya al-Libi, in June.

Early Friday, US drones fired at least six missiles at three locations in the Shawal Valley. Among the 18 people reported to have been killed was Emeti Yakuf, a senior leader of the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, a group from western China whose members are Chinese Uighur Muslim militants.


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