Airstrike hits 12 in Pakistan, Taliban kill dozens

Militants killed dozens of security officers and tribal elders and bombed a school Thursday after a drone attack struck the Taliban stronghold of North Waziristan.

Violence ripped across Pakistan Thursday, as Taliban militants and the Pakistani military, backed by suspected American drones, traded violent deadly attacks in the country’s restive tribal belt and adjoining North West Frontier province (NWFP).

A missile strike fired by a suspected United States drone killed as many as 12 people in the tribal area of North Waziristan, a Taliban stronghold. Taliban fighters carried out a series of attacks: They killed dozens of security personnel in South Waziristan and tribal elders in NWFP. And they bombed a coed school in Peshawar, the provincial capital.

The wave of violence comes as US President Barack Obama and other world leaders attending this week’s United Nations General Assembly in New York pledged more aid and support for Pakistan’s battle against extremism.

Predator drone attacks, while controversial in Pakistan, have become more frequent. The most recent one struck late Thursday, near the compound of a high-level Taliban commander, according to the News International, an English-language Pakistani newspaper:

Sources said that the US drone fired hellfire missiles on the militants’ hideouts at Danday Darpakhel area located in the west here, the headquarter of North Waziristan, which resulted in the death of nine militants and several wounded, while three more corpses were recovered from beneath the debris, taking the death toll in the incident to 12.
All the dead are said to be the Afghans, as the missile had targeted one Afghan citizen Ahmad’s house near Taliban Commander, Jalaluddin Haqqani’s residence.

Just hours before the strike, a Taliban leader told a reporter from the Associated Press that “Pakistan's Taliban movement is stronger than ever despite the killing of its top commander and will stage more suicide attacks if the army launches another offensive against it."

The Taliban, meanwhile, killed 45 security personnel in South Waziristan, and also struck at tribal elders in NWFP, reports Pakistan’s Nation newspaper:

Militants ambushed a convoy of prominent anti-Taliban tribal elders in Bannu on Thursday, spraying their cars with gunfire, killing eleven people and wounding several others, report said. The members of the local Peace Committee were traveling from the Machikhel area to meet security officials in Bannu district when their three-vehicle convoy was sprayed with bullets by insurgents, the channel said.

The ambush followed another attack by militants who killed two members of another anti-Taliban citizen's committee Thursday in the Swat Valley to the northeast.

So-called "peace committees" are Pakistan’s latest tactic to resist the Taliban, but as such have come under increasing attack, the Christian Science Monitor reported recently:

In an effort to keep the Taliban out after a three-month Army offensive ended the militants' two-year rule here ... some 8,000 ... villagers have taken up arms and joined military-sponsored militias, or lashkars.
The civilian fighting forces have cropped up across Pakistan's northwest before to try to keep the Taliban away, often with disappointing results, because they are weaker than the militants and lack backing from the military. Now, the Army is reviving the idea in Swat, and promising to provide the assistance needed.

As Pakistan struggles to contain the rising militancy, the "Friends of Democratic Pakistan" – which includes more than a dozen countries including the US – pledged continued support at a meeting in New York, reports Reuters:

The "Friends of Democratic Pakistan" group stressed their desire to help the country grapple with electricity shortages that cause daily blackouts in many parts of the country and promised to help Pakistan develop a sustainable energy plan.
In a statement after the meeting, the countries also urged donor nations come come through on the $5 billion in aid pledged to Pakistan over two years at a donors conference in April after [Pakistani President Asif Ali] Zardari vowed to step up the fight against militants and deliver on economic reforms.
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