Two US drone strikes kill 19 in Pakistan

Last Updated: Tue, Sep 21, 2010 22:00 hrs

Islamabad, Sep 22 (DPA) At least 19 alleged militants were killed Tuesday in two missile attacks carried out by suspected unmanned US aircraft in Pakistan's north-western tribal area, security officials said.

The first airstrike targeted a house that suspected Islamic militants were using as a hideout in the border region of North Waziristan and South Waziristan districts, where the Taliban has a strong presence. The area is adjacent to the Afghan frontier.

'The attack was conducted on the information that commander Shamsullah was present in the house, but he was not there,' said an intelligence official who spoke on condition of anonymity. 'The attack killed at least seven people and destroyed the mud compound.'

A few hours later, as the bodies were being transported to Azam Warsak, an area located some 15 km west of Wana, the main town in South Waziristan, the second drone attack took place.

Three missiles fired from the drone destroyed a compound, another suspected hideout of commander Shamsullah, whose full name is not known, in Azam Warsak.

'Twelve people died and eight were injured,' said a second intelligence official who also asked for anonymity.

Shamsullah is one of Taliban leader Maulvi Nazir commanders. Nazir has signed a peace deal with the Pakistani government promising not to hit targets inside Pakistan.

His followers mainly conduct cross-border attacks on NATO-led international forces in eastern Afghanistan.

The second intelligence official said that Abu Sufian, another of Nazir's commanders, had ordered his followers to leave their hideouts as drone aircraft were still making sorties in the Azam Warsak area.

It was the 16th air attack this month, reflecting a sharp increase in the CIA-operated strikes which have killed more than 100 people.

Pakistan has publicly condemned the attacks, saying they kill civilians and increase anti-US sentiment, but it is widely believed that government intelligence agencies help to identify the targets.

The US also avoids openly discussing the drone attacks but officials claim to have killed several suspected senior militants said to be responsible for attacks on NATO troops in Afghanistan.