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24 Sep, 2014 15:41

US drone strike kills as many as 10 in Pakistan

US drone strike kills as many as 10 in Pakistan

A suspected US drone strike has killed as many as ten Uzbek and local alleged militants near the Afghan border in northwestern Pakistan, according to reports citing unnamed intelligence officials.

Four missiles were fired on a vehicle carrying the group of targeted suspects a mere 500 meters from the Afghan border in the town of Datta Khel in North Waziristan, two Pakistani intelligence officials told AP. The tribal region in northwestern Pakistan is said to be a haven for Taliban and allied fighters.

While AP’s source claimed ten were killed in the strike, Reuters cited“intelligence officials” who said five to eight militants perished in the blast. According to AFP, eight suspected fighters died.

“There are two Uzbeks among the dead militants identified so far,” AFP reported, quoting a senior security official, who added that the vehicle was near a compound when missiles rained down around 3:30 a.m. local time. Reuters sources also reported two foreigners were killed in the attack.

On June 15, the Pakistani Army launched an offensive, known as Zarb-i-Azb, against insurgents in the tribal area. Since then, the military claims to have killed more than 1,000 militants, including a senior commander. Yet the Pakistani government has not offered any proof; no photographs or names have been provided to the media. The area is largely off limits to journalists, and was so even before the Army’s offensive.

Pakistan’s Foreign Office condemned the latest strike, according to a statement. A spokesperson said “with the decisive action being taken against terrorist elements in North Waziristan, there is no need for such strikes.”

“We, therefore, urge US for a cessation of such strikes,” the spokesperson added.

In the past decade, the United States has conducted 391 unmanned-drone strikes in Pakistan’s tribal areas, according to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, which estimates that 2,352 to 3,802 people - both alleged militants and civilians - have been killed in those attacks.

The US curbed the strikes for the first six months of the year as Pakistan tried to negotiate a peace deal with Taliban insurgents. Yet the deal failed to materialize, and drone strikes resumed a few days before the Pakistani Army’s offensive began. The Bureau for Investigative Journalism reported that since then, there have been at least seven US drone strikes in the region, not counting Wednesday’s attack. The latest strike is the first on Pakistani territory in more than a month.

The US does not officially acknowledge covert drone operations in the likes of Pakistan and Yemen, arousing contempt from those nations and others for alleged violations of national sovereignty and for dangerous legal and ethical precedents being made amid the dawn of robotic warfare.

On Monday, the United Nations Human Rights Council criticized targeted killings via unmanned drone strikes. It marked the first time the panel has formally discussed the issue of armed drones in violation of international human rights law and of the UN Charter. Representatives from 21 countries joined to voice opposition to US drone strikes around the world. The US, UK, and France were the only countries to withhold condemnation.

Unmanned drones have also been deployed in the US-led offensive against militant jihadist group Islamic State (known as ISIS or ISIL). Drones are accompanying more traditional fighter jets like the F-22 Raptor, F-15 Strike Eagles, and F-16s. Syria has now become the seventh country US President Barack Obama has targeted with airstrikes.