Two US drone strikes have struck Pakistan’s volatile North Waziristan tribal territory on the Afghan border, killing at least 16 suspected militants. The pre-dawn attacks on Thursday have ended the longest pause in the 10-year CIA-run drone campaign.
Residents and local intelligence officials report the first drone attack targeted a vehicle and a militant compound near Miranshah, the administrative center of the Pakistan tribal district.
Foreigners are said to be among up to six people killed in the raid, and some of them belonged to the Haqqani Network that is fighting alongside the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan.
Hours later, a drone fired missiles in the same area that reportedly killed at least 10 suspected militants.
The two incidents provoked a swift condemnation by the Pakistani government.
Speaking shortly after the attacks at the weekly foreign ministry news conference, spokeswoman Tasneem Asla said they were working to verify what had taken place.
“As regards the reports of a drone attack or attacks, we still do not have the factual position,” he said. “So, we are at the moment ascertaining the situation and facts and we will share our position once we know the facts.”
In a written statement issued later, the foreign ministry spokeswoman described the strikes as a “violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty and territorial integrity”.
The statement reiterated Islamabad’s longstanding position that the U.S. action damages Pakistani efforts to counter national and regional terrorism.
It is widely perceived that the United States halted its drone campaign at the request of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s government to persuade the Pakistani Taliban entrenched in Waziristan and surrounding tribal areas to peacefully end their militant activities. .
The U.S. drone strikes were long condemned by many in Pakistan as the major cause of increasing terrorism in the country. But despite the longest pause in the decade long drone campaign, terrorist attacks have continued throughout Pakistan, killing hundreds of people.
Hopes of seeking a negotiated end to the militancy were apparently ended by attacks Sunday against the main Karachi airport that killed at least 39 people.
* This is an updated report to correct the timing of the two foreign ministry statements. The original report had them reversed.