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US drone kills 3; FO worried about fallout

Updated September 01, 2013

MIRAMSHAH/ ISLAMABAD, Aug 31: A day after the government said it had initiated contacts with the Taliban in an effort to restore peace in the country, an American drone killed at least three suspected militants in a missile strike in North Waziristan.

According to a security official and local residents, the drone fired missiles at a building and a parked vehicle in a village near Mirali on Saturday, killing three militants.

On its part, the government condemned the air strike and said that continued drone attacks could adversely affect already difficult relations between the US and Pakistan.

The security official said the main building on the targeted compound was a madressah run by Hafiz Gul Bahadur, but was currently occupied by militants from Tajikistan.

“Militants are clearing the rubble and pulling out bodies,” the official said, citing local militants.

“These are preliminary reports. We do not know the identity of those killed as yet,” the official said.

It was the 18th drone attack in the tribal belt this year, according to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, which collects data about the attacks. The last attack occurred on July 28 when a missile struck a group of militants near the Afghan border. The attack left six people dead.

There have been over 370 drone attacks in the country since the covert CIA-directed campaign started in 2004.

Baqir Sajjad Syed adds: “These drone strikes have a negative impact on the mutual desire of both countries to forge a cordial and cooperative relationship and to ensure peace and stability in the region,” Foreign Office spokesman Aizaz Chaudhry said in a statement condemning the latest drone attack in Mirali region of North Waziristan.

The attack coincided with a disclosure that the government and Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan were in secret talks. Another attack on May 29 had killed Taliban deputy Waliur Rehman, who was said to have favoured dialogue with the government. Rehman’s death had then served as a temporary setback to the planned dialogue.

The statement pointing towards adverse impact of drone attacks on ties comes ahead of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s meeting with President Obama on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly session in New York in September.

Foreign Affairs and National Security Adviser Sartaj Aziz had a day earlier told the National Assembly that the government had forcefully raised the issue of drones in dialogue with the United States and expressed hopes that drone strikes would end in the near future.

Mr Aziz had further said that drone attacks kill innocent civilians.

It has been a consistent Pakistani position that the drone attacks violate its sovereignty, have humanitarian implications and set dangerous trends in inter-state relations.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, during his visit to Pakistan two weeks ago, had said that drone attacks needed to be brought under international law.