BANNU: At least seven militants were killed in a US drone attack targeting a Pakistani Taliban compound near the border with Afghanistan yesterday, officials said, the latest such strike since Islamabad began a major offensive in June.
The incident took place in the Lawara Mandi border village, some 60 kilometres west of Miranshah, the main town of North Waziristan tribal district where the Pakistani military has been fighting to wipe out longstanding bases of Taliban and other militants.
US drone strikes have picked up since the military offensive in Waziristan after a near six-month hiatus. Since June 12 five drone strikes have been reported in the tribal areas by Pakistani officials.
“A drone fired two missiles at a compound in Lawara Mandi and at least seven militants were killed,” a senior security official in the region said.
The official said the dead included local and foreign militants.
Local intelligence officials said that some Uzbeks and members of the Haqqani network, which is blamed for numerous bloody attacks in Afghanistan, were also among dead.
Pakistan’s semi-autonomous tribal areas on the Afghan border have for years been a hideout for Islamist militants of all stripes -- including Al Qaeda and the homegrown Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) as well as foreign fighters such as Uzbeks and Uighurs.
Washington pressed Islamabad for years to take action to wipe out sanctuaries in North Waziristan, which militants have used to launch attacks on Nato forces in neighbouring Afghanistan.
The assault by Pakistan’s military was launched after a dramatic attack by militants on Karachi airport, which killed dozens of people and marked the end of a faltering peace process with the Pakistani Taliban.
More than 550 militants and 29 soldiers have been killed in the assault so far, according to the military, though the area is off-limits to journalists, making it impossible to verify the number and identity the dead independently.
Pakistan routinely protests against US drone strikes, which have been targeting militants in the tribal areas since 2004, saying they are a violation of sovereignty and counterproductive in the fight against terror.
But most analysts believe the resumption of the drone programme after it was mothballed reportedly to give Pakistan space to carry its negotiations with the Taliban is evidence of collusion between the two countries -- strongly denied by the government and military officials.