US Drone Strikes Kill 33 in 24 Hours in Pakistan
by Jason Ditz, June 03, 2012
A pair of US drone strikes against Pakistan’s South Waziristan Agency have killed at least 33 people, 16 in South Waziristan and 17 in North Waziristan and wounded four others in the past 24 hours. The majority of the slain “suspects” were unidentified.
The one identified person was Malang Jan, killed in South Waziristan. Jan is identified as an “associate” of Maulvi Nazir, a warlord in South Waziristan who has remained on good terms with the Pakistani government, but who is frequently targeted by the US. Another attack targeted his funeral.
Pakistan’s government has regularly demanded that the US halt all drone strikes, warning that it is fueling massive amounts of militancy in the tribal areas and making matters worse. The US has spurned this demand, insisting that the missile attacks are a vital part of the ongoing war.
The strikes have had an impact well beyond the tribal areas on which they are launched as well. The significant number of civilian deaths, and the overwhelming number of people killed who are just never identified, have added fuel to a growing anti-US backlash across both Pakistan and the rest of the region.
PAKISTAN CONDEMNS DRONE STRIKES
Pakistan on Monday strongly condemned a jump in U.S. drone strikes on its territory, using language that could increase tension between strategic allies already in dispute over military supply routes for NATO that Pakistan has closed.
Three drone strikes in as many days on suspected militants have killed at least 27 people, Pakistani intelligence officials say.
The foreign ministry called the attacks “illegal” and said they violated the South Asian country’s sovereignty.
Washington and Islamabad are deadlocked in negotiations over the re-opening of overland supply routes to NATO forces in Afghanistan.
Islamabad blocked the supply routes in November after 24 Pakistani soldiers were killed by cross-border “friendly fire” from NATO aircraft.
The supply lines are considered vital to the planned withdrawal of most foreign combat troops from Afghanistan before the end of 2014.
The NATO attack plunged relations between Washington and Islamabad to their lowest point in years, and prompted Pakistani leaders to review ties.
Pakistan’s parliament called for an end to U.S. drone strikes, and the foreign minister told Reuters in an interview in April that the United States was ignoring Islamabad’s demands for an end to the operations.
Publicly, Pakistani officials condemn the use of the drones, saying they violate Pakistan’s sovereignty and warning the Americans they are driving angry Pakistanis into the arms of militant groups.
But analysts say successful drone strikes, especially those that kill senior militants, would not be possible without help from Pakistani intelligence agencies.
It is not clear how much intelligence the two sides have shared in recent months.
The recent drone strikes have focused on the North Waziristan tribal area near the Afghan border. U.S. officials believe members of the Haqqani network, one of the most dangerous Afghan insurgent groups, is based there.
more details below;
US drone kills up to 17 people in north Waziristan, the third such attack on targets in Pakistan in as many days
A Pakistani intelligence official said Monday’s missile attack flattened a mud house in Hasokhel, a hamlet to the east of Miranshah, North Waziristan’s capital.
He said: “We have reports that there were some Uzbek militants among the dead, but we cannot be certain in our identification as the bodies were badly charred.”
The frequency of US drone attacks is still a long way from its 2010 peak, but it has picked up since the Nato conference in Chicago last month which failed to persuade Pakistan to reopen its borders to Nato traffic. Supply lines into Afghanistan have been severed for six months. The American defence secretary Leon Panetta last week described diplomatic conditions between Washington and Islamabad as “up and down”, noting “this is one of the most complicated relationships we have had”.
Bill Roggio, an analyst who runs the Long War Journal website, said the attacks underlined “just how bad Pakistan and US relations are at the moment”. “These last eight strikes all occurred after the Nato summit,” he said. “The strikes were halted in an attempt to get the Pakistanis on board to reopen the supply lines but when they didn’t happen they turned the programme back on.”
Prior to the recent spate of attacks, the Obama administration’s drone campaign had appeared suspended after lobbying from diplomats, particularly the US ambassador in Islamabad, who argued that the CIA programme was preventing the two sides from burying their differences. Pakistan closed its borders to Nato supply vehicles in November after US forces killed 24 Pakistani soldiers in a border incident. Despite signs that Islamabad would relent, including in the runup to last month’s Nato conference, Pakistan continues to demand an apology for the killing of its soldiers, an end to drone attacks and a sharp increase in the tariff paid by Nato for moving cargo across Pakistani territory as conditions to reopen them.
The increase in the number of drone attacks comes as the US assistant defence secretary, Peter Lavoy, prepares to visit Islamabad in an effort to persuade Pakistan to end its blockade.One sticking point is reportedly close to being fixed. On Monday Pakistan’s Dawn newspaper reported the US had finally agreed to pay Pakistan $1.8bn as recompense for its efforts fighting militancy along its western border.
The two sides are running out of time to complete negotiations on the Nato supplies as the US Congress, which goes on a summer recess on 4 July, requires two weeks’ notice to approve any new deal.
In the border areas some people agreed that Pakistan was being punished by the US for its intransigence. “Also, the summer fighting season has already started in Afghanistan,” said Mir Nawaz, a tribesman from Miranshah. “The US wants to keep the militants under pressure.”
The third US drone strike in as many days in Pakistan has raised the three-day death toll in the aerial attacks to at least 27, according to Pakistani intelligence officials.
Monday’s strike in the Hesokhel village of North Waziristan’s tribal areas, was said to have targeted a hideout for fighters, officials said.
The latest strike, which officials said had killed 15 people, was the seventh in a span of less than two weeks.
Al Jazeera’s Imtiaz Tyab reports from Islamabad.