Tuesday, February 17, 2009

30 killed in first drone attack in Kurram Agency

Daily Times

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

* Intelligence official claims Taliban were holding meeting at time of attack

HANGU: At least 30 Afghan refugees were killed, while three others critically injured in a missile strike on a refugee camp in Kurram Agency on Monday, locals and officials said.

The three missiles believed fired from a US unmanned aircraft destroyed a house used by a local Taliban commander, witnesses said. It was the first known drone strike in Kurram, AP reported. Most of the strikes have occurred in South and North Waziristan, other tribal regions considered major Taliban and Al Qaeda strongholds.

Rehmanullah, a resident of the targeted village of Baggan, said drones were seen in the sky before the attack and that he saw 30 bodies pulled out of the rubble. An intelligence official said field informants reported that Taliban showed up at the village bazaar and ordered 30 caskets. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak to media.. However, political authorities have only confirmed 18 deaths from four missiles fired by two unmanned aircraft, while local Taliban have claimed a death toll of 12.

Meeting: "Afghan Taliban were holding an important meeting there when the missiles were fired," an intelligence official in the area told Reuters. After the attack, Taliban surrounded the area and were not allowing anyone near, witnesses said. "They have taken nine bodies to Afghanistan while the rest of them are being buried here," one intelligence official said. The injured were shifted to Mandoori Hospital.

According to local sources, former Afghan premier Gulbuddin Hekmatyar's Hizb-e-Islami was running the refugee camp. They said most of the residents had already returned to Afghanistan and only a few poor families were still there. However, they added, the people had links to local Taliban. Kurram's top administrator, Arshad Majeed Mohmand, confirmed the strike and said according to his information three missiles were fired, but he had no details about the casualties, Reuters added. saboor khan/agencies





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