NORTH WAZIRISTAN: Three US missile strikes killed at least 18 suspected militants in North Waziristan on Wednesday, in the third such strike in 12 hours and seventh in six days.
Two attacks took place in Danda Darpa Khel village, five kilometres northwest of Miramshah, the main town in North Waziristan tribal district.
“At least 10 alleged militants were killed in the US drone attack which targeted the compound of a local militant, Abdul Aziz,” a senior security official in the area told AFP news agency, adding that the death toll may rise.
Later on Wednesday night, another drone fired three missiles in the area. “The target was a militant compound. Four militants have been killed but the death toll may rise,” said a security official based in Peshawar.
Officials said the nationalities of the dead militants were not yet known. Intelligence officials in the region have confirmed the strike and casualties.
The Long War Journal reports that the village of Danda Darpa Khel is in the sphere of influence of the Haqqani network, the al Qaeda-linked Taliban group led by mujahedeen commander Jalaluddin Haqqani and his son Siraj.
The Haqqani family runs the Manba Ulom madrassa in the village of Danda Darpa Khel, a hub of activity for the group. The US has struck at targets in Danda Darpa Khel nine times since September 2008.
In the third attack, a US drone fired two missiles which struck a vehicle, killing four alleged militants in Amboor Shaga village of Datta Khel town in North Waziristan tribal area, 40 kilometres west of Miranshah.
Datta Khel is the stronghold of Hafiz Gul Bahadar, a Taliban commander who is viewed as a “good Taliban” by the military as he does not advocate attacks on the state. Bahadar supports attacks in Afghanistan and shelters al Qaeda fighters in tribal areas under his control.
The US military as a rule does not confirm drone attacks, but its armed forces and the Central Intelligence Agency operating in Afghanistan are the only forces that deploy pilotless drones in the region.
More than 1,040 people have been killed in 122 drone strikes since August 2008, according to AFP statistics. Officials in Washington say the drone strikes are a vital tool needed to protect the 150,000 foreign troops in Afghanistan, and have killed a number of high-value targets including Pakistani Taliban chief Baitullah Mehsud.
(WITH ADDITIONAL input FROM IFTHIKAR FIRDOUS and Zehra Abid)
Published in The Express Tribune, September 9th, 2010.