Tuesday, February 17, 2009

First drone attack in Kurram kills 26

 First drone attack in Kurram kills 26

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

By Iqbal Hussain, Ali Afzal Afzaal & Mushtaq Yusufzai

SADDA/PESHAWAR: US spy planes on Monday carried out the first-ever attack in the Kurram tribal region, killing 26 suspected militants and seriously injuring several others, official sources said.

However, senior Taliban commanders operating in the Lower Kurram tribal region put the death toll at 18, majority of them Afghan nationals.Tribal and Taliban sources told The News from Sadda, the headquarters of the Lower Kurram Agency, by telephone that three US spy planes were seen hovering over the area during the attack on militants� alleged training centres.

They said the planes fired four Hellfire missiles around 9:00 am that hit a primary school building and an adjoining house reportedly inhabited by Taliban militants. The residents said both the buildings were flattened in the attack, inflicting heavy losses on the inmates. According to the sources, Taliban militants had been living there for the past two years.

The locality, known as Surkh Pul and is about 18 kilometres south of Sadda, was once reserved for Afghan refugees and a school was built for their children. After the forced repatriation of the Afghan refugees from the area, the militants reportedly started arriving there and rebuild some of the damaged houses.

The sources said the US planes targeted the school and the adjacent house, where around three dozen militants were residing. Political Agent Kurram Agency Arshad Majeed confirmed the drone attack while talking to media persons.

He, however, argued that since the area was out of the writ of the government, therefore, he would not give details about the loss of life and the damage to the property. The tribal sources said dozens of Taliban militants immediately cordoned off the damaged buildings and did not allow even the tribal militants, who travelled from Sadda and the adjoining villages to take part in the rescue work.

The tribal militants, belonging to Sadda town, told The News they were later permitted to visit the area after the retrieval of all the bodies from the rubble of the two buildings. Villagers said they saw 30 coffins being shifted by the Taliban to an unknown destination in several pick-up trucks. They said seven critically-injured militants were admitted to a hospital in Sadda.

A little-known Afghan Taliban commander, Behram Khan Kochi, was reportedly running the alleged militant training camp. There were no details whether Kochi was killed in the attack. Two senior Taliban commanders told The News on telephone that 18 of their colleagues had been killed in the US attack on the two houses.. They said seven of their people were injured and admitted to a hospital..

The Taliban commanders said majority of the slain militants belonged to Afghanistan�s Khost province and they were secretly laid to rest at Ahmadi Shama graveyard near the Pak-Afghan border in Lower Kurram.

They said the identity of only two bodies could be ascertained while the rest were disfigured beyond recognition. Taliban militants said they could not reach in time to take part in the rescue work as three drones were flying over the area even after the attack.

Local residents said the US spy planes had been flying over the area for the past five days. According to the tribesmen, they feared drone attacks after militants began their activities publicly and set up roadside checkpoints.

According to the government officials, it was the first US attack in Kurram tribal region and 86th in the tribal areas. Majority of the US attacks had taken place in South and North Waziristan and the Bajaur tribal region.



15 killed in US drone attack

PARACHINAR (SANA): At least 15 people were killed and several injured as US spy drones fired missiles for the first time in lower Kurram Agency neighboring Afghanistan.

According to sources, the US drones fired four missiles at suspected hideouts of Taliban in Sarpul area of Saddah in lower Kurram Agency early on Monday morning.

The drones had been hovering over the area for the last several days.

A local official said, "Afghan Taliban were holding an important meeting there when the missiles struck the compound".

Kurram, which is less than 100km (62 miles) from the Afghan capital, Kabul, served as the most important launching pad for the Afghan mujahidin during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s.




U.S. Hits Pakistan's Tribal Areas in Second Strike

Just two days after a Predator strike in South Waziristan, the United States conducted yet another strike, this time in the tribal agency of Kurram. The target was a camp run by an Afghan Taliban commander who trains fighters inside Pakistan for attacks against NATO and Afghan forces. More than 30 have been reported killed after several Predators launched multiple Hellfire missiles at the camp.

The second attack is very interesting for several reasons. First, the United States has never struck inside Kurram. In fact, all of the previous airstrikes (51 total since 2006) have taken place in North and South Waziristan and Bajaur, and in one instance in the settled region of Bannu. The attack in Bannu also took place over the pst three months, which means the United States appears to be expanding its strikes outside of the three prime Taliban-controlled tribal agencies.

Second, the attack is the second since Senator Dianne Feinstein, the chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, disclosed that the CIA was operating a covert air base that is used to conduct the attacks inside of Pakistan. The Pakistani government has denied the existence of the base. As in Saturday's strike, no senior Pakistani leader in the government or the military protested.

Third, the United States appears to be branching out the attacks to include Taliban forces operating inside of Pakistan. In the past, the United States has focused on al Qaeda's network that is responsible for conducting strikes against the West. The al Qaeda-linked Haqqani Network was singled out for attacks, but the Haqqanis recruit foreign suicide bombers and play a role in al Qaeda's external network. Today's strike appears to be aimed at Taliban forces operating in Afghanistan, although it is possible this Taliban group also dealt with al Qaeda's external network. If the strikes have been expanded to include ordinary Taliban groups, there is no shortage of targets in Pakistan's northwest.



Pakistan Observer A

ppearing from Islamabad, Karachi, Lahore, P

  Tuesday, February 17, 2009, Safar 21, 1430

Drone strikes in KA, 30 more perished

Tariq Saeed

Peshawar—How much respect the new administration of the US give to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Pakistan, was exposed on Monday when with in 48 hours the notorious US drones killed yet another 30 persons this time in Kurram Agency in missile attacks on what was alleged to be a training camp of the militants. Earlier, on Sunday the predator or the pilot-less American plane played havoc in South Waziristan Agency when it fired missiles at a house in Laddha sub division killing around 35 people mostly local residents and wounding many others.

The drone attack also coincide with the policy statement of the newly elected US President Barack Obama in his maiden press conference that Pakistani tribal areas were the safe havens of the Al-Qaeda operatives and those needed to be crushed with full might and that too at earliest.

Reports reaching here said the US drone entered air space of Tehsil Sadda lower Kurram Agency in Surpal area at 10 in the morning and fired at least four missiles at what was said to be building used as a training camp by the militants.

As the building was destroyed completely around a dozen inmates were reported killed initially and scores others wounded seriously. However, as the reports say the death toll rose to 30 as more victims succumbed to their injuries in the hospital.

"Many bodies were trapped under the rubble and 30 bodies have been recovered so far. Several people sustained injuries in the attack". An official said. Some officials however, claimed that the death toll did not exceed 15.

Some reports say an Afghan Commander namely Bahram Khan was running a training camp in the Surpal area and at the time of missile attack some 40 people were inside the building.

It would not be impertinent to mention here that thus was the first attack of the drone in Kurram Agency though they had been conducting flights in the region in past.

Earlier out of Pakistan's seven tribal agencies, South Waziristan, North Waziristan and Bajaur have been the target of US drones where in hundreds of people, mostly innocent citizen have fallen prey to the US adventurism and the drones making mockery of the Pakistan's territorial integrity, always felt free to enter these tribal regions and conducted missile strikes.

On the other hand the PAF jets struck hard on the militants hide outs in Bajaur Agency killing at least half a dozen people on Monday morning.

Reports reaching here said the gunship helicopters heavily pounded militants dens in Tehsil Mamond and the adjoining areas and reportedly destroyed many set ups. Sources said the bombing left as many as six miscreants dead and many other injured.

Euro News 24

Suspected U.S. drone hits militant base in Pakistan

PARACHINAR, Pakistan - At least 15 people were killed in Pakistan's Kurram tribal region on the Afghan border on Monday when a suspected U.S. drone fired missiles at a building used by militants, witnesses and officials said.
Afghan Taliban were holding an important meeting there when the missiles were fired, an intelligence official in the area said of the attack in a mountainous region called Sarpul, on the outskirts of Baggan village.
The attack was the first in the Kurram tribal region and came two days after a missile strike in the South Waziristan tribal region killed at least 25 mostly Central Asian fighters believed to have al Qaeda links.
Abdul Rahim, a cleric in Sarpul, said two missiles were fired and he saw around 15 bodies pulled out from the rubble and 20 wounded.
An intelligence official also put the death toll at 15, but a militant from the area said 18 people were killed and included both Afghan and Pakistani Taliban.
Taliban had surrounded the area and were not allowing anyone near, said witnesses who could see from a distance militants still sifting through the debris.
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.
It was not immediately known if there were any senior Taliban or al Qaeda figures among the dead.
The building that was hit was formerly used by Afghan refugees' children, but militants moved in around two years ago, according to villagers.
A drone is still flying in the area and smoke can be seen over the area where the missiles struck, said a paramilitary official, also requesting anonymity.
This was the fourth attack since U.S. President Barack Obama took office last month, showing there was no change in policy since the last year of the Bush administration, when attacks by pilotless aircraft against militant targets on Pakistani territory were ramped up.
Pakistan's civilian government, elected a year ago, and the army have complained that the U.S. missile strikes are counterproductive and have fanned an Islamist insurgency across northwest Pakistan.
A senior U.S. lawmaker, Senator Dianne Feinstein, kicked off a fresh controversy when she told a Senate hearing last week that drones were being operated and flown from an air base inside Pakistan.
As I understand it, these are flown out of a Pakistani base, Feinstein, chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, was quoted as saying by the Los Angeles Times on Friday.
But, Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi denied the statement and said the drones carrying out these attacks were not operating from Pakistan.
Pakistan has not allowed these drone attacks, there was no permission before nor is there any now, he told reporters in central Multan city late on Sunday.
This is happening without any understanding and it is affecting our sovereignty, and we think that it is causing collateral damage.


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