The 27-year-old commander's days were numbered after he reneged on a cease-fire in April with Pakistan's army. At the time, he agreed to disarm his own militia and to help the army track down wanted foreigners, including al-Qaeda members, who have made Waziristan their refuge since U.S. forces entered Afghanistan. He went back on both promises. Enraged, the army relaunched its offensive against Mohammed last week, deploying thousands of troops, helicopters and warplanes, and killing at least 69 suspected militants and destroying more than 20 houses and two mosques, according to an army spokesman. At least 17 soldiers also died in the fighting. Informants tipped off the army that Mohammed was hiding in the farmhouse, the army says.
After signing the truce, Mohammed had become a hero in South Waziristan. DVDs of him appeared in the bazaars, showing him presenting a rusty sword to Pakistani officers during the cease-fire ceremony, his only compliance with his promise to disarm. Mohammed rumbled around in a pickup truck mounted with a machine gun and appeared in public with a brace of Chechen and Arab bodyguards, on loan from al-Qaeda, say tribesmen. Two weeks ago, Mohammed took a second bride, a teenager.
Al-Qaeda has an estimated 600 fighters in Waziristan, who may be forced to move on. But their options are dwindling. U.S. troops are tightening the watch across the border in Afghanistan. After Mohammed's demise, tribesmen in Pakistan are grumbling that helping al-Qaeda may now be too risky.