PARACHINAR/PESHAWAR, Pakistan (Reuters) - A suspected U.S. drone strike killed three people in the tribal area of Pakistan near the Afghanistan border on Friday, a senior regional official said, in what Afghan Taliban sources say was an attack targeting a Haqqani network militant.
If confirmed, it would be the first U.S. drone strike inside Pakistan since President Donald Trump outlined a new Afghanistan strategy and pushed Islamabad to take greater action against Pakistan-based Haqqani militants who are allied to the Afghan Taliban.
Baseer Khan Wazir, the political agent and the most senior administrator in the Kurram Agency region in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), said the drone strike took place close to the border with Afghanistan.
“Two missiles were dropped on the home of Maulvi Mohib and three people have been killed,” Wazir said.
A spokesman for the U.S.-led international force in Kabul had no immediate information on the report but said he would look into it.
Two Afghan Taliban sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Mohib was affiliated with the Haqqani network.
“He remained associated with the Haqqani network but wasn’t a prominent figure,” said one senior Taliban member.
A second commander confirmed that Mohib was part of the Afghan Taliban: “We don’t differentiate the Haqqani network and Taliban. This is just a propaganda of the western media,” he said.
U.S. officials in Washington are currently discussing what measures to take if Pakistan continues to turn a blind eye to Haqqani militants operating on its soil. Pakistan denies there are any militant havens inside the nuclear-armed nation.
Analysts have been predicting an increase in drone attacks inside Pakistan ever since Trump came into power, but since January there have only been a few.
Another option being weighed by Washington, according to U.S. officials, is targeted sanctions against Pakistani officials with links to extremist groups such as the Haqqani network.
But Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi told Reuters on Monday that such a move would be counter-productive, hurting both countries’ fight against militancy.
Reporting by Dilawar Hussain; Additional reporting by Saad Sayeed; Writing by Drazen Jorgic; Editing by Clarence Fernandez and Nick Macfie
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