A US drone strike in North Waziristan killed at least 15 persons and injured four others on Friday, putting further strain on Pak-US relations, which are already at their lowest ebb following Osama bin Laden’s killing in Abbottabad early Monday morning.
The drone attack occurred hours after a strong worded ISPR statement warned the US of dire consequences in case Pakistan’s sovereignty is violated again.
A senior security official, while requesting anonymity, said that the attack took place in the Datta Khel tehsil of North Waziristan Agency, when a US drone fired eight missiles on a building and a moving vehicle in the Dowatoui area close to the Pak-Afghan border.
“The attack killed at least 12 persons and injured five others,” the official said. He added that seven persons were killed in the moving vehicle.
Local sources, however, put the death toll at 15 and injured at four, and said that the missiles were fired at a hotel, a seminary and a moving vehicle. Another local source put the death toll at 15.
Local sources also said that four US drones fired at least eight missiles on the targets. The assault took place some 45 kilometres west of the agency headquarters Miran Shah.
It was not clear which militant group was targeted. However, Datta Khel is a stronghold of the Hafiz Gul Bahadar group, which is closely allied with the Haqqani network.
The attack comes at a time when Pak-US relations are going through a rough patch following the killing of al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden in a US Navy Seals raid on an Abbotabad compound on May 2.
An ISPR release issued after a Corps Commander meeting on Thursday asked the US to cut the number of its troops in the country and also warned against violation of the country’s sovereignty.
Defense analyst Colonel (retd) Khalid Munir was of the view that the US will not stop drone strikes inside tribal areas. Munir told The Express Tribune that there will be little reaction in the backdrop of the Abbottabad raid. He said that countering a drone was not an issue as an F-16 could easily do that, but it will invite strong reaction from the US.
“We could say to the US that enough is enough, but in that case our nation will have to face the consequences that will arise after refusal at a time when the US badly needs Pakistan’s help in its exit strategy,” Munir added.
At least 120 out of 127 drone attacks in 2010 were carried out in North Waziristan Agency, mostly in Datta Khel tehsil.
The last drone attack inside Pakistani territory was carried out on April 22 in Hassan Khel village of Spinwam tehsil in North Waziristan Agency, killing at least 25 people.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 7th, 2011.