Pakistani officials report the first U.S. drone strikes in six months

June 11

Local officials said two suspected U.S. drone strikes in a troubled northwest tribal district of Pakistan killed 16 people Wednesday and early Thursday. If confirmed, these would be the first U.S. drone strikes in the country in six months.

The missile attacks came three days after a bloody raid by the Pakistani Taliban on Karachi’s international airport that left 36 dead, including the 10 gunmen. That brazen assault has increased pressure on the Pakistani government to launch a full-fledged offensive against militants in North Waziristan, a lawless area said to be a haven for local and foreign militants linked to al-Qaeda.

Pakistani officials had asked for a suspension of the U.S. drone campaign last fall when it began peace talks with the Pakistani Taliban. The last known American drone strike was Dec. 25.

Security officials from Miran Shah, the main town in North Waziristan, said six suspected militants were killed by missiles fired by an unmanned spy plane in the Darga Mandi area Wednesday evening.

“The missiles struck a house and a nearby vehicle that were believed to be of suspected militants,” an intelligence official from the region said by phone, speaking on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to journalists.

Early Thursday, eight missiles were fired on a compound in Dande Darpa Khel near Miran Shah, killing 10 suspected militants and wounding four others, according to an intelligence official and state-run Pakistani radio.

A CIA spokesman in Washington declined to comment on the reports.

It was not clear whether the U.S. strikes might have been requested by the Pakistani government. Pakistani authorities have been quick to condemn past drone attacks, saying they violated the country’s sovereignty. But on Wednesday, there was no immediate comment by the government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

The pause in the CIA’s drone campaign had been the longest since a six-week lull in 2011, after a U.S. air assault that mistakenly killed 24 Pakistani soldiers at a border post.

Greg Miller in Washington contributed to this report.

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