x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

US drone attacks kill at least 10 Pakistan Taliban fighters

A US drone strike killed at least 10 people suspected to be Taliban fighters in Pakistan’s northern tribal areas today.

DERA ISMAIL KHAN, PAKISTAN // A US drone strike killed at least 10 people suspected to be Taliban fighters in Pakistan’s northern tribal areas today, intelligence sources said, days after another drone strike killed a top militant leader in the area.

Between 10 and 12 people were killed in the attack on three compounds in Babar Pehari, South Waziristan, six intelligence sources said. More militants were believed to be in the compounds when they were hit, officials said, meaning the death toll may rise.

The compounds were believed to house fighters belonging to the Punjabi Taliban, a group with close links to Al Qaeda, intelligence officials said.

The Pakistan Taliban has established sanctuaries in the mountainous Babar area, 140 kilometres north-east of Wana, the headquarters of South Waziristan, they added.

South Waziristan is controlled by the Pakistani army, which operates under an uneasy truce with militants from the local Wazir tribe.

Sunday's strike follows the death of Mullah Nazir, a Waziri militant leader, on Wednesday. Nazir supported attacks on American forces in Afghanistan but had signed two peace deals with the Pakistani army. On Sunday, thousands of his tribesmen protested against his killing.

Many Pakistanis say the drone strikes infringe the country's sovereignty, and are angry over civilian casualties they cause.

Others say the drones are the only way of killing militants who terrorise the local population in areas the Pakistani army is unwilling to patrol.

Drone strikes dramatically increased after US President Barack Obama took office. There were only five drone strikes in 2007, but the number rose to 117 in 2010 before declining to 46 last year.

Exact casualty figures are difficult to verify. Most of those killed are militants, but some civilians have also been killed.

Meanwhile, in Afghanistan, two suicide bombers penetrated a government compound in the country's south today, killing three people. The district chief of Spin Boldak said two militants were targeting a meeting of local officials at a compound in a district of Kandahar province near the Pakistani border. There were no reports of foreign troops or civilians at the site.

Mohammed Hashim said the two attackers arrived in a car, killed a guard and entered the facility firing weapons before blowing themselves up along with their vehicle. The compound houses offices of the district chief and district council as well as other government buildings.

The spokesman for the governor of Kandahar province, Javeed Saisal, gave the casualties as three dead and at least 15 wounded.

Kandahar is one of Afghanistan's most violent provinces. Spin Boldak district is a major infiltration corridor for Taliban fighters from Pakistan as well as a smuggling route for weapons and narcotics.