MIRANSHAH: The first US drone strike in Pakistan this year Wednesday killed at least six militants in a northwest tribal district where pressure was building on Islamabad to react after a brazen attack on Karachi airport.
Wednesday’s drone attack - the first on Pakistani soil since December - struck a vehicle and a compound in the Dargah Mandi village in North Waziristan, where almost 60,000 residents have fled since May fearing an imminent offensive by Pakistani troops.
An intelligence official in Miranshah, the region’s main town some 10 kilometres east of the village, said the missiles had struck a pick-up truck carrying some six militants and laden with explosives.
“Four of them were Uzbeks and two were Punjabi Taliban,” he said, referring to militants from Pakistan’s central Punjab province who have taken shelter in North Waziristan.
He added the militants had parked their pick-up truck against the outer wall of the compound - both of which were destroyed and remain ablaze.
Another senior security official confirmed the strike and said authorities had intercepted a radio message talking about the drone attack.
“One of the militants was asking others to reach the site and search for any one injured in the strike and also to dig up the dead bodies,” he said.
The Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan had earlier Wednesday said that Uzbek militants had been part of the Karachi airport siege, which was confirmed by a senior TTP official who told AFP it was a ‘joint operation’.
Security analyst Imtiaz Gul said IMU fighters had migrated to Pakistan’s tribal areas after being forced to flee Afghanistan following the US-led invasion in 2001. Foreign militants, mostly Uzbeks and Chechens, are believed to have been involved in other major attacks in recent years, including on a Karachi naval base in 2011 and the military headquarters in 2009.
The TTP rose up against the state in 2007 following the siege of Red Mosque in Islamabad, in an insurgency that has claimed thousands of lives.
Talks between intermediaries of the government and the TTP began earlier this year and led to a ceasefire in March that broke down a month later.
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