US drone kills six in Pakistan during Eid

Published Saturday, August 18, 2012

A US drone attack Saturday killed at least six people in a remote Pakistani tribal town near the Afghan border as local people celebrated the Muslim festival of Eid al-Fitr, security officials said.

The attack was the first since Pakistan's spymaster, Lieutenant General Zaheer ul-Islam, held talks with his CIA counterpart in Washington earlier this month in which drone strikes were said to have been discussed.

The drone fired two missiles on a compound in Shuwedar village in Shawal district of the troubled North Waziristan region, allegedly a stronghold of Taliban and Al-Qaeda linked militants.

"US drones fired two missiles into a militant compound. Six bodies have been recovered from the compound so far," a security official told AFP.

Residents and local intelligence officials confirmed the attack and the casualties. The missiles also destroyed a car parked at the compound, they said.

The attack came as people in the deeply religious region were celebrating the Muslim festival of Eid al-Fitr, they said. It was the third drone attack since the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

It was not immediately clear if the missiles targeted any senior militant leader.

Attacks by unmanned American aircraft are deeply unpopular in Pakistan, which says they violate its sovereignty and fan anti-US sentiment, but US officials are said to believe the attacks are too important to give up.

The al-Qaeda-linked Haqqani network in North Waziristan, blamed for some of the deadliest attacks in Afghanistan, is one of the thorniest issues between Islamabad and Washington.

Washington has long demanded that Pakistan take action against the Haqqanis, whom the United States accused of attacking the US embassy in Kabul last September and acting like the "veritable arm" of Pakistani intelligence.

Pakistan has in turn demanded that Afghan and US forces do more to stop Pakistani Taliban crossing the Afghan border to relaunch attacks on its forces.

Many in Pakistan accuse the Americans of demanding a Pakistani offensive to mask their own failings in the 10-year occupation in Afghanistan.

The latest attack, which came after a lull of about three weeks, was in the same region where a drone strike on June 4 killed 15 militants, including senior Al-Qaeda figure Abu Yahya al-Libi.

There has been a dramatic increase in US drone strikes in Pakistan since May, when a NATO summit in Chicago could not strike a deal to end a six-month blockade on convoys transporting supplies to coalition forces in Afghanistan.

On July 3 however, Islamabad agreed to end the blockade after the United States apologized for the deaths of 24 Pakistani soldiers in botched air strikes last November.

Islam's trip to Washington this month signaled a thaw in relations beset by crisis since US troops killed Osama bin Laden near Islamabad in May 2011.

In protest at US drone attacks, local Taliban and Pakistani warlord Hafiz Gul Bahadur have banned vaccinations in North and South Waziristan, putting 240,000 children in the region at risk.

They have condemned the immunization campaign as a cover for espionage. In May, a Pakistani doctor was jailed for 33 years after helping the CIA find bin Laden using a hepatitis vaccination program as a cover.

(AFP, Al-Akhbar)

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