Pakistan condemns US drone strikes in Waziristan

ISLAMABAD (TIP): A missile strike from a suspected US drone has targeted a compound in a northwestern tribal district in Pakistan near the Afghan border, killing at least 10 people, Pakistani intelligence officials have said. The attack on June 12 came a day after a drone strike in the same area in North Waziristan, marking the resumption of the CIA-led program in Pakistan after a nearly six-month hiatus. The Pakistani government condemned the strikes, with a ministry of foreign affairs statement calling them a violation of Pakistani sovereignty and territorial integrity.

The latest attack, early on Thursday, June 12, saw a pair of US drones drop three missiles on a compound and a vehicle in the town of Ghulam Khan, two Pakistani intelligence officials told the AP news agency, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media. Military sources told the Reuters news agency that six people, including four Uzbeks, were killed in Wednesday’s strike around 5km north of Miranshah, the capital of the North Waziristan tribal region, where Taliban fighters are holed up. Pakistan’s northwest, particularly the North Waziristan tribal area, is home to numerous armed groups, both local and al-Qaeda-linked foreign groups – who often work together, sharing fighters, money or expertise. Due to stricter rules on the use of drones, diplomatic sensitivities and the changing nature of the al-Qaeda threat, the number of drone strikes had dwindled. The missile strikes came in the wake of a siege on the international airport in Karachi, Pakistan’s busiest hub.

The five-hour attack ended with 36 people dead, including the 10 attackers. The Pakistani Taliban, who have been fighting to overthrow the government and install their brand of Islamic law, killing thousands of people in the campaign, initially claimed responsibility for the attack on Jinnah International Airport. An Uzbek armed group, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, also based in North Waziristan, later said it had also played a role in the attack. The statement appeared to be a sign of increased cooperation between armed groups in Pakistan.

Shahidullah Shahid, a Taliban spokesman, said on Wednesday, June 11, that the Taliban had worked with the Uzbek group but did not give any details. The Pakistani government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has tried to negotiate a peace deal with the Taliban ever since he took office last summer, but those talks have so far yielded little results. Meanwhile, Pakistan on Thursday condemned two U.S. drone strikes recently in the country’s restive North Waziristan tribal region that have killed nearly 16 suspected militants. After a break of some five months, the United States has once again started its drone mission in Pakistan with a late Wednesday attack, killing at least six people. Security officials said in a second U.S. spy aircraft attack early Thursday, 10 people were killed, lifting the death toll in two strikes to 16. Several people were also injured in the attacks.

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“The government of Pakistan condemns the two incidents of U.S. drone strikes that took place near Miranshah in North Waziristan on June 11 and 12,” the Foreign Ministry said. “These strikes are a violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” a Foreign Ministry statement said. The Foreign Ministry said these strikes have a negative impact on the government’s efforts to bring peace and stability in Pakistan and the region. The drone strikes had been stopped for nearly five months in the wake of peace talks between the government and the Taliban.

Pakistan had accused the United States of sabotaging the Taliban peace process when an unnamed aircraft killed the Taliban chief, Hakimullah Mehsud. The recent drone strikes were launched just three days after the Taliban launched a deadly attack on Karachi airport that killed over 30 people. The Taliban and an Uzbek militant group claimed responsibility for the attack. Security officials said the late Wednesday, June 11, U.S. strike had killed four Uzbek and two local Taliban militants. They added the pre-dawn attack targeted Afghan Taliban hiding in North Waziristan.

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