US strikes Pakistan despite drone ban

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Al-Akhbar Management

Published Monday, April 30, 2012

Pakistan on Monday condemned a US drone strike that killed at least three suspected Islamist militants in the northwest, the first since the country's parliament demanded that Washington end the attacks two weeks ago.

US officials have indicated in private that they have no intention of stopping the covert CIA drone program in Pakistan, despite anger from the population who point to the number of civilians killed by the attacks.

Pakistan kicked the US out of a base used by American drones and closed its Afghan border crossings to NATO supplies last November in retaliation for American airstrikes that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers.

The Pakistani parliament in mid-April unanimously approved new guidelines for the country in its relationship with the US, calling on the country to end attacks by the unmanned drones that cause devastation in regional parts of the country.

One source of conflict is the Pakistani parliament's demand that the US provide an "unconditional apology" for the deaths of the Pakistani troops.

The US has expressed regret, but has declined to apologize – with the military claiming its troops fired in self-defense – a claim disputed by Pakistan.

Drone attacks are also a major source of contention, with President Barack Obama significantly increasing the number of strikes since he took office in 2009, despite calls from Pakistan that it was undermining their sovereignty.

The latest attack on Sunday killed at least three people sheltering in an abandoned school in the North Waziristan tribal area along the Afghan border, said Pakistani intelligence officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media.

Pakistan's foreign ministry issued a statement early Monday saying the strikes "are in total contravention of international law and established norms of interstate relations."

"The government of Pakistan has consistently maintained that drone attacks are violative of its territorial integrity and sovereignty," it said.

It's not the first time the US has ignored Pakistan's parliament, which demanded an end to drone strikes in 2008. The attacks are unpopular because many Pakistanis believe they kill civilians and cause damage to the country.

The UK-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism has said that at least 2,400 people have been killed by US drones in Pakistan since 2004, with up to 800 being civilians.

(AP, Al-Akhbar)

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