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Pakistani Taliban Deputy Believed Killed

A senior Pakistani Taliban commander with close links to al Qaeda and the Afghani Taliban was "probably killed" in an attack by Pakistani army helicopter gunships in a remote region along the Afghan border Friday, a senior Pakistani security official told CBS NEWS on Saturday.

Rehman Malik, the interior minister, also speaking to Pakistani reporters on Saturday, said Maulvi Faqir Mohammed was likely killed in the attack at a remote location in a region known as "Mohmand" on Friday.

"I would be surprised if Faqir Mohammed survived. We are hoping to receive further confirmation in a couple of days," said Malik.

The security official who spoke to CBS News on condition of anonymity said, "Faqir Mohammed's killing will be a setback to the Taliban and al Qaeda in more ways than one."

In the past, western and Pakistani intelligence officials have said Mohammad was close to al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, the Egyptian doctor-turned-Islamic zealot who is the deputy to Osama bin Laden.

However, Pakistani security officials said, there was no information suggesting the killing of Mohammed was in any way linked to a likely targeting either of al-Zawahiri or bin Laden himself.

"There is no connectivity here," said a second Pakistani security official who spoke to CBS NEWS on condition of anonymity.

Separately, a Pakistan defense ministry official who also spoke to CBS News on condition of anonymity, said that Mohammed was targeted among the 16-20 militants who had gathered to discuss their operational plans for stepping up resistance to U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan.

The attack also highlights a growing success by Pakistani forces to target militants in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region. In the past year, the Pakistani military has shown increasing determination to target sanctuaries of militants in the region along the Afghan border.

In the past month, prominent Taliban militants (including Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the Taliban military chief in Afghanistan) have been arrested in Pakistan by the military-run Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), the main counter espionage agency.

The U.S., which is Pakistan's main ally in its campaign against Taliban militants, has responded to such successes by offering new technologies, such as bombs armed with guidance systems (a.k.a. smart bombs) and equipment used for more accurate targeting of militant hideouts with the use of Pakistan's fighter planes, notably U.S.-supplied F-16s.

CBS News' Farhan Bokhari reports from Islamabad

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