A pilotless US drone aircraft fired a missile in northwest Pakistan yesterday, killing 13 people including some foreign militants, security officials and residents said.
With the Afghan insurgency intensifying, the US began launching more drone attacks on the Pakistani side of the border last year.
Since then, about 35 US strikes have killed about 350 people, including mid-level al Qaeda members, according to reports from Pakistani officials, residents and militants.
Yesterday’s attack came at about 3am in the North Waziristan region, a stronghold of al-Qaeda and Taliban militants on the Afghan border, about 35km west of the region’s main town of Miranshah.
“The missile hit a house where some guests were staying,” one intelligence agency official said, referring to foreign militants.
“We have information that 13 people were killed including some guests,” said the official, who declined to be identified.
One resident, Amir Shah, said drones were still flying over the area several hours after the attack.
Many al-Qaeda and Taliban militants fled to northwestern Pakistani border regions such as North Waziristan after US-led forces ousted the Taliban in Afghanistan in late 2001.
From the remote ethnic Pashtun tribal lands that have never been governed by any Pakistani government, the militants have orchestrated the Afghan war and plotted violence beyond.
Pakistan objects to the missile strikes, saying they are a violation of its sovereignty and are counter-productive.
Officials say about one in six of the strikes over the past year caused civilian deaths without killing any militants, and that fuels anti-US sentiment, complicating the military’s struggle to subdue violence.
The concentration of strikes in Waziristan was also pushing some militants eastward and deeper into Pakistan, they say.
Pakistani Taliban militant leader Baituallah Mehsud said on Tuesday that his group had carried out an assault on a police training center in the eastern Pakistani city of Lahore in retaliation for US drone attacks.
He vowed more attacks in Pakistan, Afghanistan and the US.
NEW YORK SHOOTING
Hours after yesterday’s drone incident, Pakistani Taliban militant leader Baituallah Mehsud claimed responsibility for a shooting at a US immigration center in New York in which a gunman killed 13 people, also saying it was revenge for US drone attacks in Pakistan.
Security analysts said Mehsud does not have the capacity to conduct attacks in the US by himself but that he is part of an al-Qaeda-led network that has global reach.
Mehsud told Reuters by telephone from an undisclosed location that two men, one a Pakistani and the other a “foreigner,” had carried out the shooting in the US on Friday.
One Pakistani security analyst was sceptical of Mehsud’s claim.
Competition has intensified between Taliban factions in the northwest and Mehsud could simply be trying to attract fighters with the claim, said the analyst, who declined to be identified.
Last month Washington announced a US$5 million reward for information leading to the location or arrest of Mehsud.