US drone kills 12 suspected militants in N Waziristan
MIRANSHAH: US drone aircraft struck a militant hideout in northwest Pakistan near the border with Afghanistan on Monday, killing at least 12 suspected militants, Pakistani intelligence officials said.
The local intelligence officials confirmed the attack and casualties.
“US drones fired up to six missiles into a militant compound. It was not immediately clear if any important militant had been killed in the attack. We are trying to ascertain the identities,” an security official said while talking to AFP.
“The bodies had been charred,” he added.
The drones fired several missiles at a compound in the Shawal area of the North Waziristan tribal region. Two suspected militants were wounded in the strike, officials added.
The targetted compound was in Dray Nashtar village, some 65 kilometres west of Miranshah, the main town of North Waziristan which is known as a hotbed of Taliban militants.
Local residents said militants cordoned the area around the compound and were taking out bodies and wounded colleagues.
“A fire erupted in the compound after some four to six missiles hit it,” a local tribesman told AFP, requesting anonymity as he feared militants.
The controversial drone programme, a key element in US counter-terrorism efforts, is highly unpopular in Pakistan where it is considered a violation of sovereignty which causes unacceptable civilian casualties.
The United States has given no indication it intends to halt the campaign, and the administration of President Barack Obama has said the use of the remotely piloted aircraft is legal under international law.
Washington considers Pakistan’s semi-autonomous northwestern tribal belt the main hub of Taliban and Al-Qaeda militants plotting attacks on the West and in Afghanistan.
In a drone attack at the start of July, six militants were also killed and an attack on June 4 killed 15 militants, including senior al Qaeda figure Abu Yahya al-Libi.
There has been a dramatic increase in US drone strikes in Pakistan since May when a Nato summit in Chicago could not strike a deal to end a six-month blockade on Nato supplies crossing into Afghanistan.
On July 3 however, Islamabad agreed to end the blockade after the United States said sorry for the deaths of 24 Pakistani soldiers in botched air strikes last November.
Pakistan says American raids are a violation of sovereignty and fan anti-US sentiment, while US officials are understood to believe the attacks too important to give up.
Pakistan’s spymaster, Lieutenant General Zaheer ul-Islam, is due to visit the United States next week to resume talks on intelligence cooperation and drone strikes.
It will be the first time in a year the head of the military’s ISI intelligence agency flies to Washington, signalling a thaw in relations beset by crisis since US troops killed Osama bin Laden in Pakistan in May 2011.
In protest over US drone attacks, local Taliban and Pakistani warlord Hafiz Gul Bahadur have banned vaccinations in North and South Waziristan, putting 240,000 children in the region at risk.
They have condemned the immunisation campaign as a cover for espionage. In May, a Pakistani doctor was jailed for 33 years after helping the CIA find Osama bin Laden using a hepatitis vaccination programme as a cover.