A volley of US missile strikes killed at least 48 militants after destroying their compounds in North and South Waziristan agencies on Tuesday, local intelligence officials said.
It was one of the largest death tolls to date in the controversial air bombing campaign.
Coming a day after Washington announced an $800 million delay in military assistance amid worsening Pak-US ties; the attacks could exacerbate tension between the two uneasy allies in the war against militants.
The attacks started on Monday night, when remotely piloted drones fired nine missiles into a militant compound and at a vehicle in North Waziristan, killing 25 suspected insurgents, the officials said.
Another strike, hours later in South Waziristan, killed five suspected militants.
Then on Tuesday morning, a drone fired two missiles at another compound in North Waziristan. “The missiles were fired as militants sitting in a vehicle were entering into a house used by them as a hideout,” an intelligence official said, adding that 15 militants were killed in the strike. “The house is on fire.”
Three militants were killed in another strike in the same region. There was no independent confirmation of the death tolls, and militants often dispute official death figures.
It was the second-largest death toll in a day in the unacknowledged US drone campaign against militants in the country’s northwest.
In June 2009, about 70 suspected militants were killed in a drone attack in South Waziristan. “Of course the number of casualties is very high and it will add to the already strained relationship,” a senior Pakistani security official told Reuters.
Washington has been pushing Pakistan to mount an offensive against these militant sanctuaries for years, but Pakistan has resisted, saying it must consolidate its gains against Taliban militants elsewhere first. The US has stepped up drone attacks in response to Pakistan’s perceived recalcitrance.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 13th, 2011.
Correction: An earlier version of the story misspelt the name of the city ‘Miranshah’ as ‘Miramshah’. The correction has been done.