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. UAV strike kills 13 in Saidgi, NW Pakistan

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Pakistani military regrets civilian casualties in northwest
Islamabad (AFP) Dec 26, 2009 - Pakistan's military Saturday said it deeply regretted civilian casualties caused during a strike on a compound in a restive tribal area in which eight militants were killed. An unspecified number of civilians were also reportedly killed Friday in a "targeted strike" on a militant compound in Orakzai, one of seven lawless northwestern tribal districts, the military said in a statement. "Eight terrorists were killed in a targeted strike at a compound in Orakzai agency on 25 December 2009. However, there are reports of collateral damage in the adjacent compound due to blast effect," it said. "Military authorities have deeply regretted the loss of civilian lives," it added, without saying how many were killed or injured. "Military authorities are in touch with relatives of those who embraced shahadat (martyrdom) in this incident and all possible help and compensation will be provided to the affected families," the statement said.

It added that militants used compounds inside civilian areas to avoid attacks by security forces, thereby endangering the lives of civilians. It is rare that the military admits civilian casualties in military operations, despite demands by rights groups to probe such deaths. It does provide information on the deaths of militants and soldiers but these cannot be verified by independent sources as the tribal areas are out of bounds for the media and rights groups. Pakistani troops this year launched multiple operations across the tribal belt, but are under fierce US pressure to target not only the Pakistani Taliban but also groups that focus on attacking foreign troops in neighbouring Afghanistan.

About 30,000 troops poured into South Waziristan in mid-October to try and dismantle the strongholds of the Taliban leadership. Officials believe that many militants had fled towards Orakzai. Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani has said that Orakzai might be the focus of the next full-scale military assault, and the United Nations says about 40,000 civilians have already fled the area. Pakistan is in the grip of a fierce insurgency led by Taliban militants, with at least 2,700 people killed since the rebellion escalated in July 2007.
by Staff Writers
Miranshah, Pakistan (AFP) Dec 27, 2009
A US missile attack that demolished a compound in Pakistan's tribal belt used by militants crossing into Afghanistan killed 13 fighters, Pakistani security officials said Sunday.

A US drone slammed two missiles into the building on Saturday in Saidgi village, seven kilometres (four miles) north of Miranshah, the main town of North Waziristan tribal district bordering Afghanistan, officials said.

"Taliban have recovered more dead bodies from the debris. We have reports that a total of 13 militants were killed and three injured," an intelligence official in Miranshah told AFP on condition of anonymity.

"One of the local commanders, Abdur Rehman, was also killed," he added.

The compound was used by local militants attached to the Haqqani network, which has attacked US troops in Afghanistan, said a senior security official.

Other security officials confirmed 13 were killed in the strike, including a local commander, but it was unclear if any foreigners were among the dead.

Mosques in Miranshah announced that Rehman was "martyred" in the strike and that his funeral prayers would be held in Saidgi, an AFP reporter said.

The US military does not as a rule confirm drone attacks, which US officials say have killed a number of top-level militants.

At least three suspected US strikes in 10 days have struck North Waziristan, where Islamabad is under growing US pressure to take action against the Haqqani network and other extremists who infiltrate Afghanistan to attack.

Some US officials and regional analysts suspect Pakistan's top spy agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence, maintains ties to the group's leader Jalaluddin Haqqani, considering him a useful asset in Afghanistan.

In October, Pakistan sent about 30,000 troops into battle in South Waziristan, following a significant campaign to uproot homegrown Taliban from in and around the northwestern valley of Swat.

Although Pakistani troops fight militants across much of its semi-autonomous tribal belt on the Afghan border, North Waziristan has seen so far only limited air strikes and no major ground offensive.

But the district, along with other tribal areas of Pakistan, has seen a rise in suspected US drone strikes since US President Barack Obama took office and put Pakistan on the frontline of the war on Al-Qaeda.

earlier related report
US drone strike kills five in NW Pakistan: officials
Miranshah, Pakistan (AFP) Dec 26, 2009 - At least five people were killed Saturday when missiles from an unmanned US aircraft hit a suspected militant compound in Pakistan's northwest tribal belt, security officials said.

The missiles struck a house in Saidgi village of North Waziristan tribal district, which borders Afghanistan, officials said.

"Two missiles hit a house, five militants were killed," an intelligence official told AFP.

Another security official confirmed the drone attack and the toll, adding that the house belonged to a local tribesman named Asmatullah, who, he said, had links with Taliban militants.

The two officials refused to be named because of the sensitivity of US drone attacks in Pakistan, which have inflamed anti-American sentiment.

Neither official's statements could be confirmed independently.

Residents said that tribesmen had cordoned off the compound surrounding the house and were searching the rubble.

Saturday's drone strike is at least the third since December 17 in North Waziristan, where Islamabad is under growing US pressure to dismantle Islamist extremist networks along the lawless and porous border with Afghanistan.

North Waziristan rife with Taliban militants, Al-Qaeda fighters and members of the Haqqani network, a powerful group known for staging attacks on foreign troops in Afghanistan.

North Waziristan neighbours South Waziristan, where Pakistan has been focusing its most ambitious offensive yet against homegrown Taliban militants, sending about 30,000 troops into the region on October 17.

The military has launched multiple offensives this year against the Taliban and other militants across the semi-autonomous tribal belt, but so far North Waziristan has seen only limited airstrikes and no major ground offensive.

The region has, however, seen a rise in suspected US drone strikes since US President Barack Obama took office and put Pakistan on the frontline of the war on Al-Qaeda.

US media have reported that the White House authorised the CIA to expand the use of drones in Pakistan to strike suspected Taliban and Al-Qaeda members.

Since August 2008, at least 69 such strikes, including Saturday's, have killed about 647 people. It is difficult to confirm the identity of those killed while the US military does not as a rule confirm individual bombings.

The Obama administration has been putting increased pressure on Islamabad not only to target the Pakistani Taliban staging attacks inside the country, but to stamp out militant groups who cross the porous border into Afghanistan.

Obama is deploying an extra 30,000 troops to try to turn the tide in the eight-year war against a Taliban-led insurgency in Afghanistan, and says the new plan hinges on Pakistan's own efforts against extremists.




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