US drone ‘kills three militants’ in Pakistan

Activists of Pakistan Muthidda Shehri Mahaz burn the US flag during a protest in Multan last month against US drone attacks. Three militants were killed and two others wounded in a US drone attack in Pakistan's restive tribal region near the Afghan border on Sunday, security officials said. © AFP/File S S Mirza

MIRANSHAH, Pakistan  – Three militants were killed and two others wounded in a US drone attack in Pakistan’s restive tribal region near the Afghan border on Sunday, security officials said.

The drone fired two missiles targeting a militant compound in Miranshah, the main town in North Waziristan, known as a stronghold of Taliban and Al-Qaeda-linked militants, they said.

This was the first such attack since Pakistan’s parliament last month approved new guidelines on relations with the United States, which included a call for an end to drone strikes in Pakistani territory.

“A US drone fired two missiles on a compound, killing three militants and wounding two others,” a senior Pakistani security official told AFP.

He said that the compound in the market area of Miranshah was once a girls’ school that was occupied by the militants.

Another Pakistani security official, who confirmed the toll, said the compound was used mainly by Uzbek and Tajik militants.

Pakistan wants drone strikes to stop, arguing that they are counter-productive because they kill civilians, exacerbate anti-US sentiment and violate sovereignty.

Pakistan reiterated its opposition to these attacks to Marc Grossman, the US special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, who visited Islamabad on Thursday amid efforts to mend fractured relations.

The parliamentary guidelines also include a ban on transporting weapons through the country to Afghanistan and an unconditional apology for US air strikes in November that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers.

Pakistan was incensed by the American refusal to apologise for those killings and besides shutting its border, it ordered US personnel to leave a base reportedly used in America’s drone war against Al-Qaeda and the Taliban.

The guidelines, backed by parliament after weeks of debate, also demanded that those responsible for the air strikes be brought to justice.

Waziristan is the most notorious militant stronghold in Pakistan’s semi-autonomous northwestern tribal belt. Washington considers it the premier hub for Taliban and Al-Qaeda to plot attacks on the West and in Afghanistan.

The frequency of drone attacks has diminished in recent months, but US officials are believed to consider them too useful to discontinue the strikes altogether.

President Obama in January confirmed for the first time that US drones target militants on Pakistani soil, but American officials do not discuss details of the covert programme.

According to an AFP tally, 45 US missile strikes were reported in Pakistan’s tribal belt in 2009, the year Obama took office, 101 in 2010 and 64 in 2011.

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