DERA ISMAIL KHAN/ MIRANSHAH:
In a fresh surge in US drone strikes in the tribal regions, pilotless aircraft carried out three sorties in North Waziristan Agency during the past 24 hours, killing over a dozen suspected militants.
On Sunday – the second day of Eidul Fitr in the region – US drones targeted suspected Taliban militants travelling in two vehicles in the Shawal area, security officials said.
“US drones fired four missiles on two militant vehicles in the early hours of Sunday, killing four militants,” the official said, requesting anonymity.
Another security official confirmed the attack and casualties but said it was not immediately clear if any senior militant commander was among the fatalities.
The militants were travelling from Miramshah, the main town of North Waziristan, when their vehicles were struck in the Mana Gurbaz area of Shawal, a local official told The Express Tribune.
The targeted militants belonged to the group of Hafiz Gul Bahadur, an influential Taliban commander who is believed to be hosting the deadly Haqqani network in the Waziristan region. Hours later, another drone struck in the same area, killing another three suspected insurgents. The dead, according to a source, were believed to be members of the Punjabi Taliban.
Residents saw up to five drones flying over the thickly-forested Shawal area at the time of the attack.
“At least two militants were killed and two others wounded when the US drone fired two missiles at the site of the earlier strike where militants were retrieving bodies from the wreckage of the two destroyed vehicles,” a security official told AFP.
The latest attacks were in the same region where a drone strike on June 4 killed 15 insurgents, including senior al Qaeda figure Abu Yahya al Libi.
It was the fourth drone attack since the start of Ramazan and the second since ISI chief Lt Gen Zaheerul Islam visited Washington earlier this month.
Lt Gen Islam’s talks with his CIA counterpart were said to have focused on drone strikes.
On Saturday, a US drone hit a compound in Shawal, killing six militants.
The foreign ministry strongly protested the strike, saying that Islamabad “has consistently maintained that these attacks are a violation of its sovereignty and territorial integrity”.
(Additional input from AFP)
Published in The Express Tribune, August 20th, 2012.