WANA, Pakistan, Sept. 21 (Xinhua) -- A militant commander, Mullah Shamsullah, and 15 militants were killed Tuesday evening as U.S. pilotless drones struck South Waziristan, one of the seven tribal agencies in northwest Pakistan bordering Afghanistan, local sources told Xinhua.
The U.S. pilotless drones fired missiles at the Azam Warsak bazaar, 18 km west of Wana, the administrative headquarters of South Waziristan, hitting the hideouts of the militant commander, witnesses said.
Sources said Mullah Shamsullah was killed in the attack, but official sources could not confirm. He was an important and the strongest Taliban leader in Wana and literally ruled on behalf of Al-Qaida leader Mullah Nazir in the area.
Four drones are still taking flight over the area keeping harassment among local residents. Eyewitnesses said that locals are migrating out of the area.
Hours earlier, a vehicle in Ghundo Warsak area was hit by a drone and eight militants were killed, eyewitness Hafiz Wazir told Xinhua. Mullah Shamsullah was said to have been targeted in that attack.
U.S. drones regularly strike what it calls hideouts of the al- Qaeda and Taliban militants in the region.
Waziristan is the home to Taliban leaders Hakimullah Mehsood, Hafiz Gul Bahadur and Mulla Nazir who are fighting against U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan.
Since a suicide attack killed seven CIA employees in Afghanistan in December, covert U.S. drone attacks have tremendously increased in the volatile Waziristan tribal region.
A number of high-profile militant leaders, including Pakistani Taliban chief Baitullah Mehsud were killed in the drone attack in August last year.
A suspected U.S. drone strike in Miranshah, the center of the adjoining North Waziristan, in February killed Mohammed Haqqani, a brother of al-Qaeda-linked Sirajuddin Haqqani, whose network is fighting against U.S. and local forces in neighboring Afghanistan.
Pakistan's military launched an offensive against Taliban in South Waziristan last October and claimed to have made big gains against Taliban and al-Qaeda strongholds.
Pakistan publicly criticizes drone attacks, saying they violate its sovereignty and fuel more anti-Americanism among the people, but observers widely believe that Pakistan shares intelligence with the U.S. on drone strikes.