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Pakistan hopes for U.S. re-think on missiles
March 26, 2009 / 6:25 AM / in 9 years

Pakistan hopes for U.S. re-think on missiles

PESHAWAR, Pakistan (Reuters) - Pakistan wants the United States to reconsider its use of pilotless drones to attack militants on its territory, a government spokesman said on Thursday, hours after 11 people were killed in two strikes.

Missiles believed to have been fired by a U.S. drone aircraft killed four people in Pakistan's North Waziristan region on Thursday, hours after a similar strike killed seven in neighboring South Waziristan. REUTERS/Graphic

President Barack Obama is expected to announce the result of a review of Afghan and Pakistani policy on Friday. Obama has said the United States is not winning in Afghanistan, more than seven years after U.S.-led forces toppled the Taliban.

According to a New York Times report last week, the United States was considering expanding its covert war in Pakistan. A Pakistani spokesman said the government hoped Washington would re-think the missile strikes.

“As we have been saying, these attacks are counterproductive and we hope that as a result of the policy review in Washington, we would have some positive outcome,” Foreign Office spokesman Abdul Basit told a briefing.

Early on Thursday missiles believed to have been fired by a U.S. drone killed four people in the North Waziristan region, according to Pakistani intelligence officials in the area. Hours later, a strike killed seven in neighboring South Waziristan.

The United States, frustrated by an intensifying insurgency in Afghanistan getting support from the Pakistani side of the border, began launching more drone attacks last year.

U.S. officials say success in Afghanistan is impossible without tackling militant enclaves in northwest Pakistan.

Al Qaeda’s leader in Afghanistan accused Pakistan’s government of helping the U.S. launch the strikes.

“The government ... opens up its airfield in the tribal areas to American spy planes and provide information to bomb, destroy and kill,” Mustapha Abu al-Yazid said in a video posted on Islamist websites on Thursday.

Since last year, more than 30 U.S. strikes have killed about 300 people, including mid-level al Qaeda members, according to reports from Pakistani officials, residents and militants.

Pakistan’s government and the army complain that civilian casualties the strikes often cause fuel support for militants.

Intelligence officials said four villagers were killed in the missile attack in North Waziristan. A military official said explosives being carried in a truck caused the blast.

Intelligence officials said four Arab militants were among the dead in a Wednesday strike in South Waziristan, a stronghold of Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud.

In another development, a suicide bomber killed nine people at a restaurant frequented by militants opposed to Mehsud in South Waziristan’s Jandola town, officials said.

“ROBUST COOPERATION”

The missile attacks coincided with the U.S. State Department posting $5-million rewards for information leading to the arrest or location of Mehsud and Sirajuddin Haqqani, a leader of the Haqqani militant faction, whose network is based in North Waziristan and the neighboring Afghan province of Khost.

Sirajuddin’s father, Jalaluddin Haqqani, is a veteran Afghan mujahideen leader who forged a friendship with Osama bin Laden in the 1980s when they fought Soviet forces in Afghanistan.

Pakistani officials and the CIA accuse Mehsud of being behind the 2007 assassination of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto.

Haqqani had claimed an assassination attempt on Afghan President Hamid Karzai in April last year, according to the State Department.

The Haqqani group was also believed to have been behind a suicide bomb that killed scores of people outside the Indian embassy in Kabul in July. The New York Times reported at the time that U.S. intelligence had evidence the attackers were in contact with Pakistani agents.

On Thursday, the New York Times and Wall Street Journal reported that U.S. officials believed Pakistani agents were supporting the Taliban and other militants in Afghanistan.

Basit dismissed the reports as “nothing but sensational journalism.”

“This ... misses the essential fact that there is robust cooperation and engagement between Pakistan, Afghanistan, the U.S. and other countries ... in counter-terrorism,” he said.

The Journal said U.S. and Pakistani intelligence officials were drawing up a list of targets for drone strikes and Pakistani officials wanted militants behind attacks inside Pakistan added to the list.

Additional reporting by Zeeshan Haider, and Inal Ersan in Dubai; writing by Simon Cameron-Moore; editing by Ralph Boulton

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