PESHAWAR, Pakistan, Oct 15 (Reuters) - One of three militants killed in a drone strike in Pakistan on Friday was the son of a blind Egyptian cleric serving a life sentence in the United States for plotting to attack New York City landmarks, an Afghan Taliban commander said.
The U.S. drone attack killed Ahmed Omar Abdel Rahman, son of Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman, who was jailed in the United States in 1995, and also had a long history of violent opposition to the Egyptian government.
The cleric’s grandson and another Egyptian were also killed in the attack in North Waziristan, said the Afghan Taliban commander, referring to a rugged tribal area near the Afghan border that is home to a number of militant groups .
The commander, who was speaking to a Reuters reporter in Pakistan by telephone from an undisclosed location in Afghanistan , requested that his name not be used.
Regional Pakistani intelligence officials could not confirm the identities of the militants, but said they were Arabs. Gathering information in Pakistan’s tribal northwest is difficult because it is off limits to most journalists.
Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman, 73, was convicted for plotting a series of bombings and assassinations in the United States. His plans included attacks on the United Nations headquarters.
The cleric is the spiritual leader of al-Gama‘a al-Islamiya, which the U.S. government lists as a terrorist organisation.
His son had been encouraging the Pakistan Taliban movement to halt its campaign to topple the Islamabad government and help support the Afghan Taliban in its fight against U.S.-led NATO forces in Afghanistan, the commander said.
Pakistan has been under enormous pressure to go after militants in the northwest since U.S. special forces killed Osama bin Laden in May in a Pakistani town, where he had apparently been living for years.
Admiral Mike Mullen said before retiring as chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff last month that a militant group which attacked U.S. targets in Afghanistan was a “veritable arm” of Pakistani intelligence.
Ahmed Omar Abdel Rahman, 45, had been living in a village in North Waziristan for the past three years, the commander said.
Pakistan has resisted U.S. pressure to mount an offensive against militants in North Waziristan, arguing its army was too stretched fighting groups who attack the Pakistani state to take on others who cross the border to fight in Afghanistan.
Both the government and the Pakistani Taliban have suggested recently they would consider reconciliation and there has been a lull in major suicide bombings. (Additional reporting by Marwa Awad in CAIRO; Writing by Michael Georgy; Editing by Angus MacSwan)