Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Victims� families yet to be compensated

 Monday, February 16, 2009
Bureau report

PESHAWAR: The families of around 61 persons killed and 250 injured in a bomb blast in Kurram Agency headquarters Parachinar on February 16, 2008 are yet to receive compensation.

Almost all of those who fell victim to the blast were the activists of Pakistan Peoples Party, Peoples Youth Organisation and Peoples Students Federation. They were waving the party flags while chanting slogans in favor of their leaders at the end of their election campaign of their candidate Syed Riaz Hussain Shah on February 16 last, when the blast took place.

Since then I have been contacting President Asif Ali Zardari and the PPP central leadership but nothing practical was done for the ill-fated workers,PPP President Dr Syed Riaz Hussain Shah said.

He said dozens of those killed were the lone breadwinners for their families. Of the total 250 injured, four lost their eyes, many lost their legs or hands, while several others developed mental illness.

The PPP government, he said, restored thousands of employees announcing compensations for all the victims of bomb blasts, but has totally ignored the victims of Parachinar blast for the last one year.

I apprised President Asif Zardari on October 20 and he immediately directed the authorities to provide compensation as well as Benazir Income Support Program forms to people of my area, but to no avail, he said.

He reminded that the president had also directed PIA Managing Director Ijaz Haroon to initiate air service to Parachinar to facilitate the residents of underdeveloped areas.

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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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'US missile strikes' hit Pakistan


British Broadcasting Corporation

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites.

Page last updated at 09:08 GMT, Monday, 16 February 2009

'US missile strikes' hit Pakistan

US drone
The missile strikes have been criticised by Pakistan's political parties

At least eight people are reported dead in a suspected US drone attack near the Afghan border in north-west Pakistan.

Two missiles fired by the drone struck the home of a local tribesman in the Kurram tribal region, officials say.

The building was being used as a Taleban recruitment office, officials told the BBC.

The US has launched many similar attacks in recent months, mostly targeting Taleban and al-Qaeda militants in Pakistan's tribal regions.

Local administration officials told the BBC the home was being used by the organisation of Taleban leader Baitullah Mehsud.

The Pakistani government has not yet commented on the incident.

The attack took place in the Sarpul area of Kurram.

Serious differences

"Smoke can be seen over the area where the missiles struck," a security official told Reuters news agency.

The official said the "Afghan Taleban were holding an important meeting there when the missiles were fired".

Pakistan map
The BBC's Syed Shoaib Hasan in Islamabad says the strike is the first to target the Taleban in the Kurram tribal region.

The area has been the scene of an ongoing sectarian war between Taleban militants and local Shia militias.

The strike is also the second to target Baitullah Mehsud's organisation in as many days.

On Saturday, two missiles destroyed a house near the Afghan border reportedly being used as a meeting place by his men.

At least 28 militants, including foreign fighters, were killed in that attack.

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

Last month, suspected US missile strikes killed at least 25 militants close to the Afghan border.

More than 20 attacks have been carried out from drones on targets in north-western Pakistan in recent months.

The US and Pakistan have had serious disagreements over the Afghan border zone, with Washington unhappy at Pakistani efforts to tackle militants and Islamabad condemning the US drone attacks.

Pakistani leaders had expressed hope that the new US administration would halt the controversial air strikes, saying they fuelled public anger and complicated Pakistan's own counter-insurgency efforts.

But the drone attacks have continued since Barack Obama was inaugurated as US president last month.

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US missile strike kills 30 in Pakistan


Monday 16 February 2009 12.02 GMT

Saeed Shah in Islamabad

US missile strike kills 30 in Pakistan

A US missile strike against suspected militants in a tribal area of Pakistan killed 30 people today, as Islamabad announced a peace deal with extremists in another region that includes the imposition of Islamic law.

The missile attack targeted a house used by a Taliban commander in Kurram, close to the Afghan border. It is the fourth such strike since Barack Obama entered the White House, showing that his administration intends to continue the policy of firing missiles into Pakistani territory despite loud opposition in Pakistan.

The attacks, which have increased in frequency since September, have concentrated on Waziristan, the southern tip of the tribal borderland, which is a stronghold for Taliban and al-Qaida. There have been no known previous hits in Kurram and the decision to go after militants there is a sign of how deeply entrenched they are across the tribal region. Unlike most of the tribal region, in Kurram the principal cause of unrest is a sectarian conflict between Shia and Sunni clans.

Rehman Ullah, a resident of the targeted village of Baggan, said drones were seen in the sky before the attack and that he saw 30 bodies dug out of the rubble afterwards. It was unclear whether the dead were Pakistani or Afghan Taliban fighters..

A missile strike on Saturday reportedly killed 25 people, including five foreign trainers who were likely members of al-Qaida, in the Ladha district of South Waziristan. There were rumours that the al-Qaida deputy leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, had been in Ladha just days before.

The Pakistani prime minister, Yousaf Raza Gilani, today reiterated Islamabad's concerns about the missiles, which are fired from pilotless drone aircraft operated by the CIA. "These (strikes) are counterproductive and not in the interests of the country," he said. "I think the Obama administration will have to reconsider this policy."

The missile attacks in the tribal area have caused civilian casualties and fanned support for extremism, but they appear to have been highly effective in eliminating senior and mid-level al-Qaida operatives, possibly to the point where the group may have to find a safer base elsewhere.

Separately, Pakistan announced it had agreed a deal that would see sharia – Islamic law – introduced to a large area of the north-west, Malakand, which sits outside the tribal territory but is under assault from Taliban extremists. The authorities hope that the provision of Islamic courts in Malakand – the key demand of the militants – will lead them to lay down their arms and remove public support for their populist demand of speedy Islamic justice.

In return, the army will pull out of active operations in the area. However, analysts believe that the militants who are particularly entrenched in Swat valley, a part of Malakand, will use army disengagement as an opportunity to regroup and rearm.

Amir Haider Khan Hoti, the chief minister of North West Frontier province, in which Malakand falls, said he believed peace would follow the sharia move. He said the new regulations would still protect the fundamental rights enshrined in the Pakistani constitution, with the main purpose being to speed up the legal process.

"If you compare these courts to the courts established by the Taliban in Afghanistan, there's nothing in common between them," Hoti said.



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