The US carried out the first drone strike in Pakistan this year on Wednesday, killing at least six militants in North Waziristan, where pressure was building on Islamabad to react after a brazen attack on Karachi airport.
According to a local security forces official, the US drone launched two missiles at a vehicle and compound in Dargah Mandi village in North Waziristan Agency’s Ghulam Khan tehsil, around 10 kilometres west of agency headquarters Miramshah. The incident took place around 9:00pm, he said.
Six suspected militants were killed, four of whom were said to be of foreign descent. "Four of them were Uzbeks and two were Punjabi Taliban," said an intelligence official in Miramshah.
Officials said militants had parked their pick-up truck against the outer wall of the compound. “Both compound and truck were completely destroyed. Local informers told us that both are still on fire,” the intelligence official said.
A security official said people from the neighbourhood rushed to the site of the attack, to extinguish the fire and pull out charred bodies. However, many of them panicked after reportedly seeing drones continuing to hover around the area.
Another senior security official confirmed the strike and said the death toll could rise.
The last drone attack on Pakistani soil occurred on December 25, 2013 in the Qutab Khel area of Miramshah, killing four suspected militants. According to media reports the strikes had been temporarily halted at the Pakistani government’s request.
The latest strike came as the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistani (TTP) and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan said that Uzbek militants had been deployed in a siege of the country’s busiest airport that began on Sunday night and ended late Monday morning, killing 37 people including the 10 attackers. That attack shredded the peace process with the TTP that began earlier this year.
More than 2,000 people have been killed in drone attacks since August 2008 according to an AFP tally, with critics charging that the strikes cause many civilian casualties.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 12th, 2014.