Pakistan drone attack, aimed at Haqqani network, kills at least six

The target of the drone attack was the Haqqani network, a Pakistani militant group based near the Afghanistan border that has been blamed for attacks on NATO troops.

Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP
In this Jan. 31, 2010 file photo, a US Predator drone flies over the moon above Kandahar Air Field, southern Afghanistan.

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A suspected US drone attack in Pakistan’s tribal region on Wednesday killed at least six people. The target of the strike was the Haqqani network, a Pakistani militant group blamed for attacks on NATO forces in Afghanistan, the Associated Press reports.

The strike, which targeted at least one house in North Waziristan, was the sixth drone attack in the area this week. The missile hit a house in the village of Dande Darpa Khel just outside North Waziristan’s main town of Miran Shah, according to the AP.

The house was owned by Maulvi Azizullah, a member of the Haqqani network, a militant group based in North Waziristan that U.S. military officials have called the most dangerous threat to NATO troops in Afghanistan.

The Haqqani network is closely allied with the Taliban and is led by Jalaluddin Haqqani, a well-known fighter during the war against the Soviets in Afghanistan. Haqqani received support from the U.S. and Pakistan during the Soviet war but has since turned against the Americans.

Drone strikes appear to be the only available way for the US to go after the Haqqani network, reports the AP. US officials have long urged the Pakistani government to crack down on the group, but Islamabad has refused, possibly due to its desire to preserve their historical ties with a group that can influence events in Pakistan.

The Institute for the Study of War traces those ties back to the days of the 1980s jihad against Soviet forces in Afghanistan, when Islamist militant groups like the Haqqani network allowed Pakistan to exercise influence in its chaotic and war-torn neighbor. The institute says that Pakistan’s top military official, Gen. Ashfaq Kayani, has referred to the group as a “strategic asset” for Islamabad.

Pakistan may grow more concerned with the strategic use of militant groups as the US-led NATO war in Afghanistan draws to a close, says the AP, which reports that “analysts believe the government views them as an important ally once foreign troops withdraw from Afghanistan.”

The news website Indian Express says that 10 militants were killed and several others were injured in the attack, and the Times of India reports that two houses were destroyed in the strike, but neither report has been confirmed.

In August, the US State Department released its annual global terrorism report for 2009, singling out groups like the Haqqani network and other Al Qaeda elements in Pakistan as “the foremost security threat to the US homeland.”

As the Monitor has previously reported, those fears were underlined in June when a Pakistan-born Connecticut man, Faisal Shahzad, pleaded guilty to attempting to detonate a car bomb in New York City’s Times Square. Mr. Shahzad had traveled to Pakistan to receive training from Al Qaeda there, and called his attempted attack an act of “war.”

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