US missiles kill 15 in Pakistan militant training centre

A United States (US) drone strike on an insurgent training centre in Pakistan’s militant-riddled North Waziristan killed 15 militants on Tuesday, amid a recent surge in the covert attacks, officials said.

More than 220 people have been killed in over 40 strikes since September 3, angering the government, which is facing criticism for acquiescing to the US missile attacks and reprisals from militant groups based in the area.

The US has upped its covert drone war amid reported criticism of Pakistan’s failure so far to launch a ground offensive in North Waziristan.

Tuesday’s strike hit targets in Ghulam Khan village on the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan, some 15 kilometres north of Miranshah, the main town in North Waziristan tribal district.

“At least 15 militants were killed when US drones fired six missiles on a militant compound and a vehicle,” a senior security official told Agence France-Presse (AFP), adding: “Militants were using the compound as a training facility.”

A local intelligence official and another security official in Peshawar confirmed the drone attack and toll.

Taliban and al-Qaeda stronghold targeted
After the strike, militants surrounded the destroyed compound and were searching through the rubble while an excavator dug graves for the dead in a nearby cemetery, local intelligence officials said.

The area is considered a stronghold of Taliban and al-Qaeda-linked fighters and the number of US drone strikes dramatically rose after intelligence claims emerged last month of a plot to launch commando attacks on European cities.

The leadership of the Haqqani network, which is linked to the Taliban and al-Qaeda, is also based in North Waziristan.

It has been accused of plotting some of the deadliest attacks on US troops in Afghanistan, including a suicide bombing that killed seven Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) operatives at a US base in Khost last December.

On Monday US Special Envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Holbrooke said it was necessary for Pakistan and Afghanistan to find a “common strategic purpose” to overcome the various insurgent groups in the tribal border areas, which he said were “getting closer”.

The United States does not as a rule confirm drone attacks, but its military and the CIA operating in Afghanistan are the only forces that deploy the pilotless aircraft in the region.

Drone attacks are ‘highly effective’
Officials in the murky tribal area never give their names over security fears and the militant-hit region is effectively cut off to any outsiders, making it difficult to verify attacks independently.

Washington officials say drone strikes are highly effective in the war against al-Qaeda and its Islamist allies, killing a number of high-value targets, including the Pakistani Taliban’s founding father Baitullah Mehsud.

But the policy is deeply unpopular among the Pakistani public, who see military action on Pakistani soil as a breach of national sovereignty.

The Pakistani Taliban have claimed responsibility for a number of arson and gun attacks on North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) supply convoys destined for Afghanistan, saying they are in revenge for the drone war.

Washington has attempted to soothe anti-Americanism that is rife throughout Pakistan with increased civilian aid to help the country overcome devastating summer floods, balancing that with its huge military donations.—Sapa-AFP

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