At least 14 people have been killed in a US drone attack in northwest Pakistan, the third strike in less than 24 hours, according to officials. The pre-dawn raid on the village of Dargah Mandi on Wednesday was directed at the Haqqani network, a Pakistani group that has targeted NATO and US forces inside Pakistan and neighbouring Afghanistan, sources said.
“The missile strike targeted militants of the Haqqani network,” the AFP news agency quoted an unnamed senior security official as saying. At least 15 other people were killed in two separate drone attacks on Tuesday elsewhere in North Waziristan. Such strikes have killed more than 75 suspected fighters since September 3 across the country’s tribal belt.
Residents said there was panic in the village on the outskirts of Miranshah, the main town in North Waziristan, as the noise of the unmanned aircraft was heard in the early hours of Wednesday . “As the US drones came over the village people started shouting and running here and there shouting ‘run, drones have come,'” a local tribesman told AFP, requesting anonymity for fear he might be harmed by members of the anti-government group.
Residents said the targeted houses were owned by Bacha Khan, a local tribesman, who had rented them out to members of the group, and were destroyed in the attacks.
Named after the veteran mujahidin leader Jalaluddin Haqqani, the group is now led by his son, Sirajuddin, and is said to be closely linked to al-Qaeda and the Afghani Taliban. The Associated Press news agency reported that the latest attacks were being staged as US special operation forces carried out raids against the Haqqani network across the border in Afghanistan.
US intelligence officials were quoted as saying that about 4,000 raid had been recorded between May and August as troop numbers in Afghanistan were boosted by forces arriving from Iraq. The US military does not, as a rule, confirm drone attacks, but its armed forces and the Central Intelligence Agency operating in Afghanistan are the only forces that deploy pilotless drones in the region.
Pakistan does not officially approve the strikes, which have fuelled anti-American sentiment among the public, and has repeatedly stated that they violate the country’s sovereignty. “The position of the army and government is the same, that it harms more than it helps,” Major General Athar Abbas, an army spokesman, said before the latest attacks.
The Taliban last week threatened Pakistani security forces with more suicide attacks to avenge the US attacks. More than 1,070 people have been killed in more than 125 drone attacks in Pakistan since August 2008, including a number of senior fighters