US steps up drone campaign over North Waziristan

PESHAWAR: Undeterred by growing strains in its ties with its key ally Pakistan, US drones have stepped up strikes on the country’s lawless tribal belt pounding the region with missiles targeting a rebel compound killing eight militants early today.

The drones unleashed their lethal hellfire missiles on a vehicle in South Waziristan tribal region killing the militants, some of whom were believed to be foreign terrorists. The strike came less than 12 hours after another US drone killed 10 militants in nearby North Waziristan Agency.

The stepped up drone campaign follows on the heels of Obama Administration’s announcement that it was suspending more than one-third of the massive USD 2 billion military assistance to Pakistan.

The two attacks in quick succession indicate that White House has no intention of stopping the drone campaign that has contributed to tensions between Washington and Islamabad.

“At least eight militants were killed in today’s drone strike”, a senior security official was quoted by a local TV as saying.

Washington has called Pakistan’s semi-autonomous North West Tribal Region as the most dangerous place on earth and the global headquarters of dreaded Al Qaeda and is pressing Islamabad to launch a full scale military operation in North Waziristan region to strike at Haqqani network faction of the Taliban.

But the Pakistan military claims that its troops are too over stretched by operations against Taliban in other areas to undertake such an offensive, but analysts believe that Islamabad is hesitant to cross militants with whom it has historical links and who could be useful allies in Afghanistan after foreign forces withdraw.

In response, the Obama Administration has dramatically increased drone strikes in North Waziristan over the past couple of years, besides also hitting South Waziristan.

A total of 21 US drone strikes have been reported in Pakistan’s tribal areas since the US Navy SEALs killed world’s most wanted fugitive and Al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad on May 2. –PTI

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