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News, March 2008


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Editorial Note: The following news reports are summaries from original sources. They may also include corrections of Arabic names and political terminology. Comments are in parentheses.

20 Anti-US fighters killed in South Waziristan missile strike

20 killed in S Waziristan missile strike, Foreigners among dead

By Irfan Barki & Akhtar Shehzad


A cross-border missile attack on the house of a tribal elder left 20 people dead and five others injured in Pir Bagh area of Kot Shah Nawaz, south of the agency headquarters, Wana, in the restive South Waziristan Agency (SWA) on Sunday.

The six missiles landed in and around the house of Noorullah Wazir, eyewitnesses said. The attack claimed 20 lives, including a few foreigners, whose identity could not be ascertained. The incident that took place at around 3.30 pm completely destroyed the targeted house.

Official and tribal sources claimed that the attack was carried out from across the border and aimed at an alleged militantsí hideout, the authenticity of which was established after the killing of some foreigners in the attack.

Top military spokesman Major-General Athar Abbas told The News that around six explosions were heard in the area but said, at the moment, he could not confirm if it was a missile attack or the number of casualties in the incident. He said a fact-finding team had been sent to the area to probe into the incident.

However, private TV channels, quoting some unidentified eyewitnesses, reported that the attack was carried out by a drone. It is worth mentioning here that militants in South Waziristan are led by a pro-government commander Maulvi Nazir, who played a major role in expelling the Uzbek militants from the tribal agency. Under his command, the area remained peaceful since November 16, when he announced a unilateral ceasefire with the security forces.

He was reciprocated and no tussle has been witnessed in the agency since then, but at the same time attacks from across the border have been causing unrest from time-to-time. Twelve people were killed in a similar pre-dawn attack on a house in Kaloosha village in SWA on February 29 last.

Senior government functionaries based in Wana as well as sources among the militants having links with Arab fighters had confirmed to The News that majority of those killed in the attack were Arabs, Afghans and (fighters) from the (Pakistani) Punjab.

While the militants claimed a pilotless spy plane had fired three missiles on the house, which also caused damage to three adjacent houses, DG ISPR Maj-Gen Athar Abbas had claimed that the blast was caused by explosives dumped in the house. He had ruled out the possibility of an attack by any foreign aircraft.

The February 19 incident was the second attack of its kind in the area inhabited by Ahmadzai Wazir tribe in South Waziristan. In 2004, militant commander Nek Muhammad, along with five other tribesmen, was killed in a similar air strike reportedly carried out by a CIA-operated Predator aircraft.

Local militants had admitted that the place was used as a training facility and was frequently visited by the Arab fighters and Mujahideen from the Islamic countries. He felt it was possible that their opponents, possibly Afghan refugees living in the area but having affiliation with the Americans and the Northern Alliance, had passed on information about their activities.

Militants believed that the Arab fighters were the main target of such missile attacks as they used to visit the place frequently and had recently attended crucial meetings. It may be recalled that senior al-Qaeda commander Abu Laith al-Libbi was killed in a similar attack on a house in Khushali Tori Khel village of Mirali town in the North Waziristan Agency on January 29. However, American and Pakistani officials are still tight-lipped about the incident and have not officially confirmed Al-Libbi's killing.

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