Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Despite Obama's Speech U.S. Drone Attacks Continue in Pakistan

May 29, 2013

Drone Strike Kills at Least 4 in Pakistan

New York Times

PESHAWAR, Pakistan — At least four people were killed and four others injured in a drone attack on a house near the Pakistani-Afghan border early Wednesday, residents in the region said.

Tuesday’s strike came just six days after President Obama unveiled his new drone policy, curtailing their use to limit civilian casualties and moving oversight of the program from the C.I.A. to the Pentagon — although the C.I.A. is expected to maintain control of strikes in Pakistan. U.S. officials do not comment on specific attacks, but the C.I.A. has carried out hundreds of drone strikes in Pakistan that have killed thousands of people.

Residents reached by phone in Miram Shah, North Waziristan, said the drone attack happened around 3 a.m., hitting a house in nearby Chashma Pull and killing four people. One resident said that fighters from nearby immediately cordoned off the area and retrieved the dead and the wounded.

An official in Peshawar responsible for security in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas said it appeared that at least three people had died in the attack.

“This is an initial report,” said the official, who asked not to be named because he was not authorized to speak to reporters. “We don’t know the identities of the dead and wounded but so far it emerges that all were tribal people. We have not heard of any foreigner having been killed or wounded so far.”

The authorities in the North Waziristan region, a stronghold for militant forces, often have to rely on local tribal contacts for information.

Wednesday’s strike, coming just days before the newly elected government in Pakistan takes over, suggests that Washington is not likely to completely halt such attacks, which it sees as an effective tactic in fighting Al Qaeda in the region along the Pakistani-Afghan border.

The incoming prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, has said he plans to engage the United States in “serious” negotiations to put an end to drone strikes, which Pakistan says violate its sovereignty

The drone strike also came the same day that members of the provincial assembly of the northwestern Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province were scheduled to take their oaths of office. A majority of the incoming provincial assembly is deeply opposed to the use of drone strikes by United States, with opposition to the strikes and military offensives by the Pakistani Army in the tribal regions a cornerstone of election campaigns of several political and religious parties in the run-up to the May 11 general election.

The political party of Imran Khan, the former star cricket player turned politician, will lead a coalition government in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province. In October last year, Mr. Khan led a rally of thousands of supporters, party workers and a contingent of American peace activists to the edges of the tribal region in protest of drone strikes.

Salman Masood contributed reporting from Islamabad, Pakistan.

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