'US drone strikes' claim lives

The attacks are the first since Friday's protest rally in Pakistan condemning civilian deaths in US drone strikes.

    The Pakistani public sees the drone attacks as a breach of national sovereignty [AFP]

    Pakistani intelligence officials say that a possible second US drone strike has killed two more suspected foreign fighters in northwestern Pakistan.

    Sunday's attack came several hours after a drone fired two missiles at a vehicle and a house in Doga Mada Khel village, located near North Waziristan's main town of Miranshah, killing at least five armed fighters.

    The town is a frequent target of the strikes, and the country's tribal region bordering Afghanistan, is increasingly seen as battleground in the fight against the Taliban and al-Qaeda.

    "The US drone hit a car immediately after it parked outside a house," an intelligence official in Miranshah said of the first strike.

    According to officials, the second drone fired two missiles at the suspected fighters as they were riding on a motorcycle in the same village in the North Waziristan tribal area.

    The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media.

    As a policy, the United States does not confirm drone attacks, but its military and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) operating in Afghanistan are the only forces that deploy them in the region.

    A similar strike killed at least three people in North Waziristan on January 12.

    On January 1, a string of attacks killed at least 15 people and destroyed a Taliban compound, according to Pakistani officials.

    Fresh protests

    In the town on Mir Ali town, also in North Waziristan, some 1,800 tribesmen staged a demonstration on Sunday against the continuous drone strikes, witnesses said.

    All the markets remained closed with traffic suspended on the busy Bannu-Miranshah road, which runs through Mir Ali.

    "The government should take immediate steps to stop drone attacks otherwise we will launch a protest movement and will march towards Islamabad," Sherzali Khan, a local tribal elder, told the protesting tribesmen, who were shouting slogans against the US and CIA.

    They demanded an end to the operations, which they said were killing civilians including women and children in the tribal areas.

    A similar rally was held on Friday in Miranshah against the drone strikes.

    The strikes are deeply unpopular among the public, who also see military action on Pakistani soil as a breach of their sovereignty.

    According to a tally conducted by the AFP news agency, the covert campaign doubled missile attacks in the tribal area last year, where more than 100 drone strikes killed over 670 people in 2010 compared with 45 strikes that killed 420 in 2009.

    Pakistan tacitly co-operates with the bombing campaign, which US officials say has badly damaged al-Qaeda's leadership. But it has stalled launching a ground offensive in North Waziristan, saying its troops are overstretched.

    Washington says the strikes have killed a number of high-value targets, including Baitullah Mehsud, the former head of the Pakistani Taliban.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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