A second suspected US drone strike yesterday killed six people on the mountainous Pakistan-Afghanistan border, after a strike a day earlier that killed 20, government and militant sources said.
The attacks came days after a Canadian-American couple held hostage by the Taliban were freed from the area in Pakistan’s northwest, striking a rare positive note in the country’s often-fraught relations with the United States.
On Friday, US drones were seen hovering near where American Caitlan Coleman, her Canadian husband, Joshua Boyle, and their three children, all born in captivity, were freed, after having been kidnapped by the Haqqani network while backpacking in Afghanistan in 2012.
“Four unmanned drones fired six missiles in Monday’s attack and two more were dropped on Tuesday,” said Baseer Khan Wazir, the top administrative official in the Kurram Agency, part of Pakistan’s restive Federally Administered Tribal Areas.
The drones fired missiles on Taliban hideouts, killing at least 26 people over two days, he added, with both attacks taking place on the Afghan side within 300 metres of the frontier.
“Twenty people were killed yesterday, mostly from the Afghan Taliban, and six more were killed in today’s attack,” Wazir told Reuters.
Taliban sources said 18 members of the Pakistan-based Haqqani militants, allied to the Taliban, were killed in Monday’s strike and six more yesterday.
“There were some mud-built houses which were being used by the mujahideen (Afghan Taliban fighters),” said a member of the Afghan Taliban, who asked not to be identified.
“The drones fired six missiles on Monday and two more today, targeting two, three different compounds.”
No prominent militants were in the area, he said.
Another Taliban source said two commanders were killed in the attack, however.
Witnesses said they heard the drones and saw plumes of smoke before seeing 20 makeshift coffins moved out of the area.
“There are always drones hovering over this border area, but this was the first time four drones were noticed at the same time,” said Kurram resident Gulab Sher.
The Haqqanis are one of the strongest factions in the Afghan Taliban insurgency and have earned a fearsome reputation for their vicious attacks on Nato troops and Afghan installations over the years.
The group has long been suspected of having ties to Pakistan’s shadowy security establishment, souring relations with Washington.
Islamabad has repeatedly denied the accusations of turning a blind eye to militancy, lambasting the United States for ignoring the thousands who have been killed on its soil and the billions spent fighting extremists.
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