US drone strikes kill 28 alleged militants in Pakistan

Friday, December 17, 2010

ISLAMABAD - At least 28 suspected militants were killed Friday and several more injured in three separate strikes by US pilotless aircraft in Pakistan’s restive tribal region along the Afghan border, security officials said.

Meanwhile, a mortar attack allegedly carried out by Taliban hit a residential area in nearby Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province, killing nine people, including women and children. In a retaliatory airstrike, the Pakistani military killed 10 alleged insurgents.

The drone strikes took place in the Tirah and Lakai valleys of Khyber district, one of the tribal districts where Taliban and Al Qaeda operatives are believed to have hideouts.

“In the first strike, a US drone fired two missiles into a compound in Sipah village of Tirah and killed seven people,” said an intelligence official who spoke on condition of anonymity. “Seven more people were wounded,” he added.

“Around one hour later another drone attack took place in Nargosa area of Lakai valley. Fifteen more militants were killed and several injured,” the security official said.

“Our informants are saying that both compounds belonged to the militant group of Lashkar-e-Islam,” he said. “Two important commanders, Ali Marjan and one who was known only by his alias Fauji, are said to be among those killed.”

A third attack hit a compound in Sipah village, apparently targetting Lashkar-e-Islam head Mangal Bagh. “Mangal Bagh was not there at the time of the attack,” said a second intelligence official who also sought anonymity, but “his six fighters were killed,” the official said.

Lashkar-e-Islam is allied with Taliban militants and is suspected of attacks on NATO supply convoys passing through the Khyber district into Afghanistan.

It was the fourth drone attack in 24 hours. On Thursday a US drone fired a missile into a vehicle in the same district and killed all seven people in it.

The US views Pakistan’s tribal areas as a global headquarters of Islamist terrorist organizations. It has intensified drone strikes in the region, with more than 100 this year that have killed 600 people.

Most of the drone attacks have taken place in North Waziristan, where Washington wants Pakistan to move against Al Qaeda and the network of Afghan Taliban commander Jalaluddin Haqqani whose fighters have carried out deadly attacks against international forces in eastern Afghanistan.

US President Barack Obama Thursday asked Pakistan to do more in its fight against Islamist militants as his administration unveiled a report on progress since he outlined a new strategy against the Afghan insurgency a year ago.

More than 150,000 Pakistani troops have pushed back the Taliban and Al Qaeda in various tribal districts but the militants still have control over large areas.

On Friday, Taliban allegedly fired four mortar shells into a residential area dominated by Shia Muslims in Hangu district of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.

Orangzeb Khan, a police official, said the mortar shells damaged several houses. “The death toll has risen to nine. Among them are also two women and two children.

“The mortar shells had came from Taliban bases which are located in the nearby hills. They wanted to target Shia Muslims but at least three of those killed are Sunni Muslims,” Khan said.

Taliban hail from various Sunni groups and the Pakistani government says that by attacking Shias they want to start a major sectarian conflict to divert the focus from the fight against them.

The army retaliated with helicopters pounding Taliban positions around Hangu hours after the mortar attack. “Ten militants died and several were injured,” a local security official said.

Filed under: Terrorism

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