Targeting the al Qaeda-linked Haqqani network, US missiles killed 12 people in lower Kurram Agency in two strikes just minutes apart on Monday, security officials said.
The attack was the second in a region plagued by sectarian violence and militancy, where Haqqani loyalists are believed to have fled as US pressure mounts on Pakistan to launch an offensive on their headquarters in Waziristan.
The area where this attack occurred is said to be populated mostly by Sunnis and located in the northwest of Sadda Town towards the agency headquarters Parachinar. A US drone fired three missiles on a vehicle, an official said. However, officials put the death toll at seven.
Those killed were said to be affiliated with the Haqqani network, however, local sources said the deceased were local tribesmen.
This was the first drone attack carried out outside North and South Waziristan agencies this year. The first strike, also in lower Kurram Agency, was on February 17, 2009, which killed at least 26 militants. In 2010, most of the drone attacks were carried out in North Waziristan, particularly in Datta Khel tehsil, a stronghold of the Haqqani network. Earlier this year, a peace deal was concluded between the warring Shia and Sunni tribesmen in February, which was reportedly mediated by the Haqqani network.
Kurram has become a safe haven for the Haqqani network since the terror group brokered a peace deal between the besieged Shia and Sunni tribesmen. The Haqqanis want to use Kurram as an alternate route into Afghanistan. Siraj Haqqani, the operational commander of the Haqqani network who is a top al Qaeda and Taliban leader, and other Haqqani network commanders have sought shelter in Kurram to avoid the US Predator strikes.
WITH ADDITIONAL INPUT FROM AFP AND THE LONG WAR JOURNAL
Published in The Express Tribune, June 21st, 2011.