American missiles target militants in North Waziristan, days after bloody attack on Karachi airport, in clearest indication that peace talks have failed
The US carried out its first drone strikes of the year in Pakistan on Wednesday night, killing at least 16 suspected militants, according to security officials.
The CIA’s covert programme had been suspended since December to allow Islamabad to open negotiations with militants although sources said missile strikes would still be conducted if high-profile targets were located.
But with peace talks all but over and a deadly attack on Karachi airport on Sunday night, pressure has been growing for action against militant havens in the north-west of the country.
Two strikes were conducted in the North Waziristan tribal region overnight, hitting a vehicle and a compound in a village close to Miranshah, the main town.
An intelligence official said a pick-up truck carrying six militants and laden with explosives had been destroyed.
Taliban claims new attack on Karachi airport security base 10 Jun 2014
Karachi airport attack kills dozens 09 Jun 2014
CIA drone strikes: embarrassment for US as Pakistan court orders murder investigation 05 Jun 2014
Key militant group splits from Pakistan Taliban 28 May 2014
How America got Taliban target number one 02 Nov 2013
“Four of them were Uzbeks and two were Punjabi Taliban,” he told the AFP news agency.
Hours earlier, a statement purportedly from the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan had claimed responsibility for the assault on Karachi airport, which killed 39 people.
The group is closely allied with the Pakistan Taliban – which also claimed responsibility – and al-Qaeda, part of a nexus of terrorist groups operating from havens close to the border with Afghanistan.
For militants to storm such an important facility, the country’s busiest airport serving a city of 20million people, is a huge embarrassment to Pakistan’s security forces and a government which had staked its reputation on bringing the Taliban to the table.
Within hours, air force jets were pounding militant strongholds.
The resumption of drone strikes, however, is the clearest indication that peace talks have failed.
The CIA’s drone programme is hugely controversial in Pakistan. It has serves as a rallying call for right-wing religious leaders who accuse Washington of infringing Pakistani sovereignty, even though strikes are carried out with the permission of Islamabad.
Missiles have wiped out much of the senior leadership of al-Qaeda in the region. The head of the Pakistan Taliban, Hakimullah Mehsud, was killed in a drone strike last year.