US drones attack in new area of Pakistan

Pakistan's Kummar tribal area, which rarely sees US drone attacks, was hit Monday in what may be an expansion of the highly unpopular American drone campaign.

Pakistani tribal people rally in Miran Shah in Pakistani's North Waziristan on Monday, June 20. Around 1,000 tribesmen held a protest against drone strikes Monday in Miran Shah, one of the main towns in North Waziristan. The crowd shouted 'Down with America' and threatened to block NATO supplies to Afghanistan if the drone attacks don't stop.

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A series of drone attacks killed 12 people Monday in a part of Pakistan's tribal region that rarely sees US drones. Drones have lately been concentrated in North Waziristan, a stronghold for militants staging attacks on NATO troops across the Afghan border (see map of Pakistan's tribal areas here).

Monday's attacks in the Kurram tribal area could signal an expansion of the US fight against militants in the area.

The US has requested the Pakistani military's assistance in North Waziristan, but Pakistan has resisted a ground offensive against militant cells there, saying its forces are already stretched too thin, the Associated Press reports.

The prevalence of US drone attacks in North Waziristan prompted the Haqqani network to make a deal with militias in Kurram to allow Haqqani militants to cross through Kurram on their way to Afghanistan, avoiding increasingly dangerous North Waziristan, according to the AP. The rate of drone attacks has climbed since US President Obama came into office in January 2009, The Telegraph notes.

The drones are overwhelmingly unpopular in Pakistan. About 1,000 tribesmen staged a protest against them yesterday in Miran Shah, one of the main towns in North Waziristan. However, with US distrust of Pakistan as high as it is, it is unlikely the drone campaign will be halted soon.

American legislators over the weekend accused Pakistan of leaking information to militants about planned American raids. Four times in the past month alone, militants evacuated bombmaking factories after American officials told Pakistani officials about their existence, leading the US to suspect that Pakistani officials are tipping militants off, The New York Times reports.

There is deep skepticism among congressmen that the Pakistani military and intelligence agency are fully committed to combating terrorism. Many believe Pakistanis are playing a "double game," helping the US sometimes and working to maintain good relations with militants at other times.

[US Rep. Mike Rogers, (R) of Michigan,] expressed deep skepticism that the Pakistani military and the nation’s spy agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence, or ISI, were fully partners with the United States in battling terrorists and insurgents on their side of the border with Afghanistan.

“Pakistan needs to understand that there is no such thing as a good terrorist,” Mr. Rogers said. “They’re playing this very dangerous game of destabilization by having elements of the ISI and the army sympathetic to the Taliban and Al Qaeda elements.”

Pakistan officials vehemently rejected the accusations of leaking information to militants, explaining that the leaks were likely coming from tribal elders who the Pakistani military sometimes has to inform about actions in the tribal areas, CNN reported. Some tribal leaders are loyal to the Taliban and other militants, some to the government, and some to whoever makes sense at the time.

Meanwhile, reports emerged Tuesday that a 9-year-old girl from Peshawar in northwest Pakistan said she was kidnapped by militants who attempted to turn her into a suicide bomber. She was kidnapped Sunday and taken to a checkpoint in Lower Dir (see map here), where she was given a vest of explosives and told to detonate them at the checkpoint, CNN reports.

Instead of doing that, she turned herself in to the soldiers, who removed her vest and put her in custody. She has been reunited with her family. Her story has not been fully verified yet.

Militants have used children as suicide bombers in the past, but rarely any who are as young as this girl.

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