At least four suspected militants were killed in a US drone strike in North Waziristan Agency on Saturday, security officials said.
The strike took place around 12:30pm in the Eso Khel area, around 35 kilometres from Miramshah, the main town of the agency. “At least four militants were killed in the attack,” a local security official said.
Another official added that a remotely-piloted US aircraft targeted a car and a compound belonging to suspected militants. The car was destroyed and the compound flattened in the attack. A third security official based in Peshawar confirmed the strike and said the death toll may rise.
Local tribesmen rushed to the site immediately after the strike and pulled out the fatalities from the charred wreckage of the car. According to residents, militants shifted the bodies to an undisclosed location.
The latest strike drew a strong condemnation from Pakistan
“These unilateral strikes are a violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” read a statement issued by the Foreign Office on Saturday evening.
“Pakistan has repeatedly emphasised the importance of bringing an immediate end to drone strikes … [It] has consistently maintained that drone strikes are counter-productive, entail loss of innocent civilian lives and have human rights and humanitarian implications,” it said.
“Such strikes also set dangerous precedents in inter-state relations … [and] have a negative impact on the mutual desire of both countries to forge a cooperative relationship and to ensure peace in the region,” the statement added.
Of late, a noticeable decrease has been witnessed in US drone strikes in the tribal regions which Pakistan says violate its sovereignty. Saturday’s attack was the first in a little less than two months. On July 3, a US drone strike had killed 17 suspected militants in the Srai Darpa Khel area of Miramshah.
Taliban deny secret talks with govt
The outlawed Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) on Saturday denied reports that the group was holding secret talks with the government.
“I categorically deny peace talks at any level between the Taliban and the government,” TTP spokesperson Shahidullah Shahid told reporters in a phone call from an undisclosed location. “No contacts have even been made between us, nor have we received any offer to initiate peace talks.”
The denial came a day after government officials claimed that an exploratory round of talks had been held with insurgents.
“Unofficial talks between the government side and the Taliban are in progress,” Information Minister Pervaiz Rashid said on Friday. Another unnamed official told the BBC that the preliminary talks have started ‘paying off’.
However, the TTP spokesman brushed aside these claims as ‘propaganda’. “If the government has any proof of such negotiations, it must make it public,” he added.
The TTP had withdrawn its offer of peace talks to the government after the killing of its second-in-command Waliur Rehman in a US drone strike in North Waziristan Agency in May, last year.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 1st, 2013.