ISLAMABAD - A U.S. drone strike is said to have killed at least a dozen militants in Pakistan’s volatile North Waziristan region, where the Pakistani military is engaged in a counter-terrorism offensive that could include targeting extremists involved in deadly cross-border raids in Afghanistan.
Local intelligence officials say the pre-dawn attack took place in the Datta Khail area where a U.S. drone fired several missiles into a sprawling militant compound. Most of the dead were said to be fighters of the outlawed Pakistani Taliban and its Uzbek allies.
Repeated U.S. drone strikes in North Waziristan are reported to have killed around 50 people since mid-June, when Pakistan's military launched a major offensive against local and foreign extremists entrenched in the mountainous border region.
Officials in Islamabad say around 500 militants have been killed and the military has lost more than two dozen soldiers.
In Washington, the U.S. commander of NATO-led forces in Afghanistan, General Joseph Dunford, told Congress Thursday he has reservations about the overall effectiveness of the army operations in North Waziristan.
"They have had some success against the Pakistani Taliban and the IMU [Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan] in North Waziristan from the best that we can tell, but that they certainly have not had the effect against the Haqqani Network and others that we would want to have seen. Now, although it certainly has had a disruptive effect on the Haqqani Network in essence that they have all been forced to move out of their sanctuary in the Miranshah area," he said.
U.S. officials believe the Haqqani Network has ties to the Pakistani spy agency (ISI) and is responsible for some of the deadliest attacks against coalition forces in Afghanistan.
General Dunford said the United States had been urging Pakistani authorities to undertake the army offensive to uproot the Haqqani bases in North Waziristan.
But Pakistani military spokesman Major-General Asim Bajwa, speaking to VOA, insists the Waziristan offensive is not sparing any terrorist outfit based there.
“The mission of this operation was to eliminate terrorists of all hue and color from North Waziristan, eliminate all their sanctuaries, gain firm control of the area and make sure that none of the terrorists is able to return to this area,” he said.
The military ordered the civilian population of North Waziristan to leave before it launched a ground offensive, forcing an estimated 1 million people into nearby Pakistani towns and cities.