Four killed as US drone strikes resume in Pakistan
MIRANSHAH: The deadly United States drone campaign in Pakistan’s tribal zone resumed with a missile strike that killed four terrorists, two months after a NATO raid that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers.
The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) campaign had reportedly been suspended to avoid worsening relations between the US and Pakistan after the deadly November 26 incident, which eroded even more the thin veneer of trust between the wary allies.
The four terrorists were killed late Tuesday when two missiles struck their compound on the outskirts of Miranshah in North Waziristan, security officials said.
The attack set the building on fire and flames could be seen from the roofs of houses in Miranshah, which lies five kilometres away, residents reported.
It was the first missile strike in Pakistan since November 17. It remains to be seen if it presages a new round of attacks on Taliban and Al Qaeda-linked terrorists based in the remote territory bordering Afghanistan.
November’s strike by NATO helicopters triggered outrage in Pakistan and aggravated tensions in an already shaky relationship with Washington, prompting Islamabad to block NATO supply convoys heading to Afghanistan.
Islamabad also ordered the United States to last month leave Shamsi air base, from where it is believed to have launched some of its drones.
A joint US-NATO investigation concluded last month that a catalogue of errors and botched communications led to the soldiers’ deaths in November. But Pakistan rejected the findings, insisting the strikes had been deliberate. NATO’s probe said that both sides failed to give the other information about their operational plans.
The US drone campaign has reportedly killed dozens of Al Qaeda operatives and hundreds of low-ranking fighters in Pakistan since the first Predator strike in 2004.
However, the programme has incensed many Pakistanis, and fuels widespread anti-American sentiment throughout the country.
The Los Angeles Times reported last month that the CIA had suspended drone strikes on gatherings of low-ranking militants in Pakistan due to the tensions caused by the campaign. afp