US drone hits militant hideout in Pakistan
It was the first US attack outside of the country's tribal belt. Conflicting reports have arisen as to Pakistan's approval of US tactics.
A US military drone struck a militant hideout in Pakistan's North West Frontier Province yesterday, the first such strike outside of the country's tribal belt, but the 20th missile attack overall by US forces since August.Skip to next paragraph
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The strike underscored that, as the Taliban has spread deeper into Pakistan, the US is willing to engage them further inside Pakistani territory. Rather than clarifying a strategy for Pakistan and Washington to jointly follow, the strikes have only led to greater confusion between the two sides.
Yesterday's strike, which left five dead, took place in Bannu, an area abutting Pakistan's tribal belt, but still inside the country's North West Frontier Province. The target was some 19 miles from the Afghan border, Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported, adding:
The attack marked the first US missile strike outside of the rugged tribal regions, which have become safe havens for militants linked to Taliban and Al-Qaeda, one Pakistani security official said.
In recent weeks, the Pakistani Taliban has expanded the range of its attacks to include several areas deeper inside Pakistan, including Peshawar, the capital of the North West Frontier Province, as England's Guardian newspaper reports:
Fighting in the surrounding countryside has spilled into urban areas. Last week, a suicide bomb in the [Peshawar's] stadium killed four people, an Iranian diplomat was kidnapped, two journalists were wounded in an ambush and gunmen murdered an American aid worker.
Among the dead in yesterday's missile attack were said to be foreign fighters, AFP reports.
"At least two foreigners were among five killed," [a senior security official told AFP.]
Pakistani officials use the term "foreigners" to describe Al-Qaeda militants.
That a wide range of foreign fighters continues to fight alongside the Pakistani Taliban was also confirmed this week by three Pakistani tribal elders, according to the Daily Times, a leading English newspaper in Pakistan.
Three tribal elders on Tuesday escaped from Taliban captivity in Bajaur Agency, claiming the presence of a large number of foreigners in the Taliban ranks. Malak Bakht Munir and two other tribal elders told reporters that the foreigners included Chechens, as well as Uzbek, Tajik, Sudanese, and Afghan nationals.
The presence of such foreign fighters has been used as a justification for the US military's controversial attacks on Pakistani soil, of which there have been several in the last few weeks alone.