At least 17 people, all believed to be suspected militants, were killed and eight others sustained injuries in three separate US drone attacks in the mountainous Babar area of Ladha subdivision in South Waziristan Agency, official and tribal sources said on Sunday.
According to sources, the drones fired 10 missiles and hit three different compounds of militants located in the remote mountainous Babar area of Ladha subdivision, 140 kilometres northeast of South Waziristan’s headquarters Wana on Saturday night.
The compounds were reportedly inhabited by the tribal militants affiliated with Hakimullah Mehsud’s Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and members of the Punjabi Taliban group.There were also reports that three among the slain militants were regional Taliban commanders, but their identity could not be ascertained. Some government officials believed the death toll in the three simultaneous drone strikes was higher than what was reported by the media.
“Babar in Shaktoi area had remained the only stronghold of Mehsud militants and a centre of their armed activities. There were dozens of militants in Babar when the drones carried out missile strikes,” a government official based in South Waziristan said.
Pleading anonymity, he said it was after a long time that US drones had targeted the Mehsud tribal militants engaged in targeting Pakistani security forces and government installations.He said it was the second time in January that the drones targeted anti-Pakistan militants.
In an earlier attack in North Waziristan on Thursday morning, he said, the drone fired four missiles and hit a double-cabin pickup truck carrying militants from Miranshah to Mir Ali in North Waziristan and reportedly belonging to Hakimullah Mehsud-led TTP. He said the attack killed four people, including two stated to be senior commanders.
Government and security officials were seriously worried about the fate of dozens of people that the militants had kidnapped from different parts of the country and reportedly kept in the far-flung mountains of the Shaktoi area.
“There were credible reports that most of the people kidnapped from different areas in the country were held in Shaktoi. Right now we don’t know if the prisoners have been killed in the latest drone strikes, but we are seriously worried about them,” a senior government official in Peshawar said.
Tribesmen in the adjoining Razmak area of North Waziristan tribal region told The News that they had heard heavy blasts overnight but had no idea if the explosions were caused by drone strikes.
“There were heavy explosions in the mountains in the Mahsud-populated areas of Shaktoi but we did not know these were the drone strikes,” a tribesman in Razmak subdivision said.It was the third attack by the US drones in the Pakistani tribal areas this year.
Our correspondent adds from Islamabad: The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chairman Imran Khan has condemned the US drone strike which claimed 17 lives.In a statement, Imran called upon the authorities to take the nation into confidence and identify those killed in the drone attacks.
Imran said drone attacks were a violation of international laws and also violated the country’s sovereignty.The PTI chief said the government had turned Pakistan into a banana republic and the US authorities were allowed to hit and kill any civilian at will inside Pakistani territory.