Pakistan denies drone hit LI militants in its territory

* Defence minister says strike targeted militants in Nazyan area of Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan on Saturday officially denied that a US drone attack that reportedly killed 10 militants on Pak-Afghan border in the north-west the other day took place in its territory.
“It landed across the border,” Defence Minister Kh Asif told Daily Times. 
While initial reports suggested that the attack on LI hideouts took place in Pakistani territory, the follow-up information established that the surgical strike targeted militant suspects in Nazyan area of Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province. “It was not in our area and it has nothing to do with peace process with Taliban,” the minister said.
Pakistan’s security forces have recently targeted the LI hideouts in the Tirah Valley of Khyber Agency. This, according to the defence minister, was something unrelated to the peace talks with Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). “The LI is against the TTP. Whether it is targeted by our forces or by the drone strikes, is not going to affect or hamper peace talks in any way.”
Khyber Agency Political Agent Shahab Ali Shah said no drone attack took place in the Pakistani territory in the ongoing year. “There have been dozens of militants targeted in the surgical strikes conducted by our security forces but there has been no drone attack in Khyber Agency or any part of Federally Administered Tribal Areas,” he said.
On Wednesday’s drone attack, Shah said, “We don’t have any evidence to believe that the attack took place in Khyber Agency. It took place in the remote Nakhtaro village of Nazyan district that is believed to be the den of LI militants.”
According to available information on drone strikes in tribal areas, the last drone strike in Pakistani territory was reported on December 26 last year in North Waziristan Agency’s Qutabkhel area in Miranshah subdivision, killing at least four suspected TTP men. 
Up to 25 drone attacks took place last year, compared to 48 in 2012, 59 in 2011 and a record number of 90 drone attacks that took place in 2010. Over 2,600 people, mostly militants, are said to have been killed in around 300 drone attacks since 2004.
Former home secretary FATA Brigadier (r) Mahmood Shah said the decline in the number of drone strikes each year is part of the CIA’s policy to gradually slow down the predators’ campaign. This year, he said, a drone attack has not taken place so far mainly because of aerial assaults on the militants by Pakistan’s security forces. “The armed forces launched effective surgical strikes against militants and inflicted heavy losses on them. This best explains why a drone strike has not happened this year up till now.”
The drone attacks will stay, according to Shah. “Although, the predator attacks have slowed down significantly, they are not going to end. Whenever and wherever the Americans spot a high-valued target, they are going to go for it.”

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