Friday, March 13, 2009

Drone Strike Kills 21 in Pakistan . NY TIMES


Friday, March 13, 2009 Last Update: 8:00 AM ET



Drone Strike Kills 21 in Pakistan 
Published: March 13, 2009



Three missiles thought to have been fired from remotely piloted American aircraft struck a Taliban training camp in the Kurram area of northwestern Pakistan late on Thursday and killed 21 militants, according to a local government official and news reports on Friday.

Nine other people were injured in the strike around 9.30 p.m. to 10 p.m., directed at a training camp some 20 miles from Parachinar, the capital of the remote tribal area where 31 people were killed in a similar attack on Feb. 16. of Kurram Agency, according to the official, who spoke in return for anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to reporters.

The camp was under the command of Fazal Saeed, a local militant commander aligned with Baitullah Mehsud who heads a militant network seeking to topple the beleaguered Pakistan government. The attacks on Mr. Mehsud's camps over the past month represent an expansion by the Obama administration of the covert war run by the Central Intelligence Agency, carried out largely by drone aircraft.

Under President Bush, the United States frequently attacked militants from Al Qaeda and the Taliban involved in cross-border attacks into Afghanistan, but had stopped short of raids aimed at Mr. Mehsud and his followers, who have played less of a direct role in attacks on American troops.

Residents and officials in Kurram said on Friday that they see drones flying over the area most days, including on Thursday before the attack in a remote and inaccessible area. The official said it would take some time to evaluate the full impact of the attack.

More than 30 drone strikes have been reported since last September.

The two attacks on camps run by Mr. Mehsud follow his decision to unite with two other militant commanders last month to launch joint attacks against NATO and American forces in Afghanistan.

The Obama administration has announced plans to send 17,000 additional troops to Afghanistan, where militants fighting allied troops include those based in Pakistan's remote and lawless tribal areas.

The drone strikes are deeply unpopular with many Pakistanis. Some of the attacks have killed civilians, enraging Pakistanis and making it harder for the country's shaky government to win support for its own military operations against Taliban guerrillas in the country's lawless border region.

The strikes may also be pushing the Taliban, and some Al Qaeda elements, out of the tribal belt into areas such as the Swat valley, where the government recently struck a truce with the Taliban.






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