ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, Dec. 3 (UPI) -- Pakistan officially confirmed Saturday that it had hunted down and killed a top al-Qaida commander this week.
The respected Pakistani newspaper Dawn had reported Friday that Abu Hamza Rabia, who was believed to be al-Qaida's operational commander, was killed in an operation by Pakistani forces in North Waziristan, a region of northwest Pakistan along its border with Afghanistan, on Thursday.
The paper said the Egyptian-born Hamza Rabia and four of his associates were killed in a missile strike on the hosue they were staying in. The paper said the missile or missiles were fried from an unmanned drone aircraft.
Tens of thousands of Pakistani soldiers are deployed along the border as part of the hunt for al-Qaida militants.
Hamza Rabia is believed to have worked closely with Libyan Abu Faraj al-Libbi, the head of al-Qaida's international operations wing, until al-Libbi's's capture in May, the British Broadcasting Corporation reported.
The killing of Hamza Rabia is the latest success in Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf's sustained military drive against al-Qaida and its protectors in the northwest part of his country. Hundreds of militants and more than 250 Pakistani soldiers have died in clashes there over the past two years.
The Pakistan army has shifted its focus to North Waziristan this year, saying it had cleared the more southerly parts of the area.