MIRAMSHAH, July 3: Seventeen suspected militants were killed and several others wounded when a US drone fired missiles into a house just after midnight on Tuesday.

Initial reports about the attack put the death toll at four.

The dead and wounded belonged to the Haqqani network and included Punjabi and Afghan militants, a security official said in Peshawar on Wednesday.

The drone fired four missiles into a house in Serai Darpakhel, near Miramshah Bazaar, in North Waziristan’s regional headquarters at around 12.30am, local residents and officials said.

The house, built barely a month ago, was razed to the ground and flattened, eyewitnesses said. Militants surrounded the house and retrieved the dead and wounded.

The injured were taken to private hospitals in the town, officials said. A vehicle parked inside the house was also destroyed.

Baqir Sajjad Syed adds from Islamabad: The Foreign Office condemned on Wednesday the latest US drone attack, reminding the Americans of its implications for the bilateral relationship and the collateral damage they cause.“The government of Pakistan strongly condemns the US drone strike that took place in Miramshah, North Waziristan, on July 3, 2013. These strikes are a violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” a statement on this year’s 16th, but deadliest attack, said.

The statement, much like the previous protests, said the strikes affect the desire of both countries to forge a cordial and cooperative relationship and jointly work for peace and stability in the region.

The attack happened only a few hours after Foreign Affairs and National Security Adviser Sartaj Aziz met Secretary of State John Kerry on the sidelines of the 20th ministerial meeting of the Asean Regional Forum in Brunei Darussalam for discussions on how to take the relationship forward.

The Pakistan government has consistently held the position that drone attacks violate human rights and international law and hence need to be stopped.

The officials in private discussions admit tactical advantages of the drone war, but say they are strategically disadvantageous by providing the Taliban more recruits and fomenting anti-Americanism.

President Obama, in a speech on counter-terrorism in May this year, announced greater oversight over the drone programme.

The US has carried out drone attacks against militant targets in Pakistan since 2004, but the spike in the frequency of the strikes came during Obama’s first tenure, with highest number of attacks (117) in 2010. The frequency has since then declined.

The PML-N, during its days in opposition, had remained a vocal critic of the attacks, but has tamped down the rhetoric since coming to power after the May 11 polls.

One of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s key foreign policy aides at a background briefing last week said that the new government would not like to make drone attacks a hot button issue with Washington in its quest for redefining ties with the superpower.

The strategy on drone attacks worked out by the new government is a look-alike of the policy followed by its predecessor PPP government, which was to continue criticising the attacks as a matter of principle.

The aide had said that the government would keep trying to convince the Americans that the disadvantages of the attack outweigh the advantages.

The government also believes that the drone attacks would soon be on their last legs as the CIA kill list nears its end.



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