Top Taliban commander Nisar Ahmed, a close aide of slain militant chief Baitullah Mehsud, and who was carrying a bounty of Rs one crore on his head was killed on Wednesday in a gun battle with security forces in Swat.
Ahmed alias Ghazi Baba was also a close associate of fugitive Swat Taliban chief Maulana Fazlullah and was known as an expert in making bombs, army officials said.
He was one of 15 top militant commanders for whom authorities had offered rewards in May. His killing comes as the army was on the brink of launching its biggest campaign by storming Taliban stronghold of South Waziristan.
Army officials told reporters that Ahmed opened fire at soldiers who surrounded his home in the Matta area of Swat at 7.45 a.m. He was killed in retaliatory firing, they said.
The army conducted the raid on Ahmed's home after receiving a tip-off from an informant. Ahmed was a member of the Taliban 'shura' or decision- making council in Swat.
The area in which he was killed Matta, located 25 km northwest of Mingora, the main city in Swat district was one of the main Taliban strongholds till the army launched operations against the militants in May.
Army officials described Ahmed's death as a "major success" and a "hard blow" to the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan.
Security forces also apprehended 10 militants during a separate operation in Charbagh area of Swat.
In another development, the bodies of six top Taliban commanders were found in the Hangu region of the North West Frontier Province, police said, adding explosives attached to the bodies were rigged to explode when they were touched.
All the dead militants belonged to the Taliban faction led by slain commander Baitullah, who was killed in a US drone attack in August.
It could not immediately be ascertained who had killed the six commanders.
The Pakistan Army claims 2,000 militants have been killed since an operation was launched against the Taliban after in Swat and adjoining areas of the NWFP.
Over 300 security personnel have also died in the fighting. Fazlullah, the Taliban commander who rose to prominence two years ago by launching a bloody campaign to enforce Sharia or Islamic law in Swat, continues to be at large.
The government has offered a reward of Rs 50 million for him.
Meanwhile, army said they expect Taliban and al-Qaeda militants to put up a "stiff resistance" to a military push in south Waziristan.
Chief Military spokesman Maj Gen Athar Abbas said that military had completed preparedness for the long awaited offensive into the area where American security officials believe that the bulk of Taliban, al-Qaeda and other foreign militants are holed up.
"God willing, peace will again be restored in these areas to a successful operation," Abbas told a private TV channel but refused to specify the date for the offensive.
Security officials estimate that more than 10,000 fighters are in south Waziristan and these include a lot of foreign fighters.
Abbas said that army had already started weakening the militants in the area by aerial and artillery bombing, sporadic exchanges and imposing a blockade.
A Taliban spokesman on Tuesday warned of a "harsh response" and said "Pakistani forces will pay a heavy price for any adventure" in south Waziristan. PTI