A Predator drone strike in Pakistan’s rugged Tribal Areas killed a number of German nationals late Monday, as part of a surge of drone attacks widely believed to target the training area for the planners of an Al Qaeda terror plot in Europe.
The alleged terror plot has set off a Europe-wide travel alert issued by United States and Japanese authorities, and the drone strike’s possible success in thwarting Al Qaeda could prove to be a boon for proponents of the controversial attacks, which Pakistan argues are a violation of its sovereignty.
Pakistani intelligence officials told Reuters that up to eight Germans were killed by two missile strikes in the town of Mir Ali, North Waziristan, home to the infamous Haqqani militant network. Other news agencies placed the death toll at five. The citizens are believed to be of Pakistani origin, as well as Turkish or Arab. In September alone, the US carried out 22 drone attacks, mainly in North Waziristan.
“As long as these strikes are taking out legitimate targets, they’ve been useful. They are useful and that’s why the Pakistani leaders have been quiet about it. There’s no denying most of the foreigners are hiding in and around North Waziristan,” says Imtiaz Gul, an Islamabad-based security analyst and author of "The Most Dangerous Place: Pakistan's Lawless Frontier."
Security has been tightened across Europe after information was reportedly supplied by an Afghanistan-born German militant, Ahmad Siddiqi, to his US interrogators about terror plots in London, Paris, Berlin, and other cities.
Retired Brigadier Mehmood Shah, a former security chief for Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), believes there are currently some 15 to 20 German nationals, mainly of Turkish origin, hiding in the area based on information given to officials by a captured 27-year-old German national identified as Rami Mackenzie, who was arrested while disguised in a Burqa in June. According to the German Federal Criminal Police Office, as many as 220 people have traveled from Germany to Pakistan and Afghanistan for militant training and as many as 70 are believed to have received it.
Though he acknowledges the presence of foreign militants, Mr. Shah, like many others here, believes the drone attacks “should be stopped” as they enrage the Pakistani public, particularly those living in the Tribal Areas.
“Whatever Pakistan has to do, should be done on its own timeline. That’s the major issue as it’s complicating matters rather than solving them,” he says, adding that the German government should take greater responsibility for its own citizens.
According to a recent poll conducted by the New America Foundation and Terror Free Tomorrow, almost “nine out of every ten people in FATA oppose the US military pursuing Al Qaeda and the Taliban in their region,” while 70 percent of residents would prefer that the Pakistani military take on the militants alone.
But according to Mr. Gul, the analyst and author, Pakistan’s sovereignty is being violated foremost by foreign militants. “To those who say the Americans should not do this, I would argue that Pakistan’s sovereignty is being violated by the foreigners who are unwanted in their own countries and hiding here. They are becoming a source of irritation and conflict between Pakistan and the United States.”