US drone strike kills eight in Pakistan's tribal region

Monday, December 22, 2008

Pakistan Afghan Border. Location of the FATA and South Waziristan where the air strike took place.

A suspected United States military air strike launched by a remote-controlled and unmanned CIA aircraft on Monday morning killed at least 8 militants. Media reports claim that in two separate attacks, three missiles were fired by US drones at South Waziristan's Karikot and Shin Warsak villages, a tribal area in northwest Pakistan, well-known as center of Taliban and Al-Qaeda activity. The site of the attack is about nine miles (15 km) from the town of Wana in South Waziristan, an ungoverned tribal region.

South Waziristan is the southern part of Waziristan, a mountainous region of northwest Pakistan, bordering Afghanistan and covering some 11,585 km² (4,473 mi²). It comprises the area west and southwest of Peshawar between the Tochi River to the North and the Gomal river to the south, forming part of Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). The North-West Frontier Province lies immediately to the east. The region was an independent tribal territory from 1893, remaining outside of British-ruled empire and Afghanistan. Tribal raiding into British-ruled territory was a constant problem for the British, requiring frequent punitive expeditions between 1860 and 1945. The region became part of Pakistan in 1947.

A senior security official said that "two vehicles fitted with guns were destroyed," adding that "the eight people killed were all inside the vehicles." Pakistani intelligence said they believed the extremists killed were members of local Pakistani Taliban groups. The reports also said that the missiles "targeted vehicles mounted with anti-aircraft guns, and one missile missed its intended target and landed near a house." A local official said nine other extremists were wounded in the drone strike.

RQ-1 Predator Drone similar to the one alleged in the air strike.

Agence France-Presse has reported that "a missile attack late last month by a US jet killed Rashid Rauf, the alleged Al-Qaeda mastermind of a 2006 transatlantic airplane bombing plot, as well as an Egyptian Al-Qaeda operative, security officials have said." US unmanned drones have launched not less than 20 missile attacks in Pakistan Afghan border or tribal areas since August. The strikes have raised tensions between Washington and Islamabad.

In November, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani viewed these missile strikes as flagrant violation of Pakistan's sovereignty and territorial integrity. He announced his government was considering "a number of options to counter attacks". BBC has reported, however, that Pakistan "has been reluctant to move either diplomatically or militarily to stop these strikes." "This has fuelled speculation that the attacks may be part of a secret pact between Pakistan and the US," it added. Meanwhile, President George W. Bush, last week, said that "you know very well that when it comes to certain matters, the U.S. government doesn't discuss operations." He ruled out consultations with other governments, including Pakistan, prior to drone strikes operations.

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