US drone strikes kill 15 militants in Pakistan

Monday, February 21, 2011

ISLAMABAD - Two US drone strikes Monday killed at least 15 alleged militants linked to Al Qaeda in Pakistan’s tribal region along the Afghan border, intelligence officials said.

An unmanned aircraft fired four missiles into a suspected Al Qaeda training centre in the early hours in Birmal area, 13 km west of Wana, the main town in South Waziristan district.

“Seven people died in the attack,” a local intelligence official said on condition of anonymity. “Three Arabs and two Turkmen are among the dead,” the official added. The other two alleged militants were locals, he said.

A second intelligence official confirmed the number and nationalities of the victims.

It was the first drone strike after a lull of around a month in the US campaign that has killed hundreds, including many suspected Taliban and Al Qaeda fighters, in Pakistan’s mountainous tribal region since 2008.

Several hours later, another drone attack hit the neighbouring district of North Waziristan district, killing eight people.

“Four missiles fired from a drone destroyed a compound in Spalga village near Miranshah,” said a third intelligence official who also sought anonymity.

“All those killed are said to be Taliban but we are trying to get their exact identities,” he added.

Islamist insurgents use bases in the area to launch cross-border raids against US-led international forces in Afghanistan.

Last year, Pakistan conducted a major operation in South Waziristan to eliminate Taliban hideouts.

Pakistan has said the operation was successful, but recent reports suggest that the militants who had retreated to the mountains and neighbouring areas were now regrouping.

North Waziristan is the only tribal district that has escaped major military operations in recent years, mainly due to a peace deal between militants and the government.

The US has repeatedly urged Pakistan to act in the area, but Islamabad says its forces are outstretched due to assaults against Islamist insurgents in six other tribal districts and the adjoining northwestern Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province.

Filed under: Terrorism

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