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US Missile Strikes Kill 24 in NW Pakistan

  • Ayaz Gul

A US Predator unmanned drone armed with a missile sets off from its hangar at Bagram air base [file photo]

A US Predator unmanned drone armed with a missile sets off from its hangar at Bagram air base [file photo]

Two U.S. missile strikes Tuesday in Pakistan's semi-autonomous tribal region of North Waziristan killed at least 24 suspected militants.

Pakistani security officials say the targets of the missile strike were located in the Dattakhel district of the North Waziristan tribal region. More than a dozen missiles fired by a U.S drone struck a compound and nearby vehicles.

The area borders Afghanistan and is considered a stronghold of Pakistani as well as al-Qaida fighters. The militants are blamed for cross-border attacks on U.S.-led coalition forces.

Suspected U.S. drones have carried out scores of missile strikes in the Waziristan region in recent years, killing hundreds of alleged militants.

The government has no control over most of the mountainous territory and it is not possible to seek an independent confirmation of the damages in drone attacks because journalists are not allowed to go there.

There have been several drone missile strikes in North Waziristan since a failed attempt to detonate a car bomb May first in New York.

The attempted terrorist act has refocused international attention on the tribal region because the Pakistan-born American citizen detained in connection with the incident has allegedly told U.S investigators he received training in the Waziristan region.

American officials also believe the Pakistani Taliban were behind the bomb plot and have formally requested Islamabad to help investigate those links.

Speaking to reporters, Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi reiterated his country's support, saying the two countries are closely cooperating to defeat terrorism. But he would not discuss the status of the ongoing investigation.

"Pakistan has been cooperating, and the U.S authorities have recognized Pakistan's active cooperative role in finding out the truth behind this incident. But it is premature to make a value judgment at this stage because it is an evolving situation. Investigation are yet not complete," Qureshi said.

U.S Secretary of State Hilary Clinton has warned of serious consequences if a successful terrorist attack on America is traced back to Pakistan. Foreign Minister Qureshi says such statements are unlikely to undermine his country's ties with Washington.

"There is no need for, in my opinion, emotional reaction to some of the statements that have been made. There is nothing to worry (about)," he adds. "Our relationship is smooth and it is moving towards a partnership."

But opposition politicians and independent observers say when U.S leaders publicly criticize their close ally, while the New York incident is under investigation, it fuels anti-America sentiment in the country.

Wasim Sajjad is the opposition leader in Senate, the upper house of Pakistani parliament.

"The people of Pakistan react adversely to such comments and it does have an impact on them. If it does not have an impact at the government level I would not know," said Sajjad. "But I can tell you that the parliament has reacted, the people have reacted and they have not liked this (U.S) reaction because there are terrorist incidents all over."

Pakistan has conducted major anti-Taliban military operations particularly in its tribal regions near the Afghan border. The militants, in return, have carried out deadly attacks on security forces and civilian targets across the country.

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