PESHAWAR: Six suspected foreigners were killed in a pre-dawn drone attack in Dattakhel, about 35km west of Miramshah, regional headquarters of North Waziristan, on Thursday.

This is the first drone strike since the army launched the operation Zarb-i-Azb in the restive tribal region on June 15.

According to a security official, the drone fired missiles into a house in Doga Macha Madakhel area of Dattakhel at about 4am, killing three militants of central Asian origin and three Afghans.

FO says no official confirmation about the strike

“We believe the central Asians were of Uzbek origin,” the official said, requesting anonymity because he is not authorised to speak to media.

One report suggested that the drone struck a vehicle and a compound and those killed included four Uzbeks and two local fighters of the late Sangin Zadran group.

Army troops have yet to move into Dattakhel. The security official said forces were engaged in Boya on Dattakhel axis. They will move into Degan before heading to Dattakhel.

The area where the drone struck is only three kilometres from the Pakistan-Afghan border.

In Islamabad, meanwhile, Foreign Office spokesperson Tasnim Aslam said the government did not have any official confirmation regarding the veracity of reports about a fresh drone strike in Miramshah.

She added that Pakistan’s position on such strikes was clear. “We have made it clear that these attacks are unacceptable, they violate Pakistan’s sovereignty… drone strikes would complicate our efforts to eliminate terrorists,” she said.

AFP adds: Local security officials said two US drones fired four missiles into a compound in Doga Macha Madakhel. Four foreign fighters and two local cadres who had fled Miramshah before the launch of the military offensive were killed.

“The compound and a vehicle parked inside were completely destroyed,” a security official said. The area lies in difficult, mountainous terrain which the official said the militants had hoped to use as cover.

Another security official in Peshawar confirmed the attack and the casualties.

It is the third round of drone strikes to hit northwest Pakistan since the US resumed the campaign following a six-month hiatus.

Washington reportedly suspended its drone programme in December to give Islamabad time to pursue a dialogue process with Taliban aimed at ending a seven-year insurgency that has claimed thousands of lives.

But a bloody attack on Karachi airport on June 9 that left dozens dead sank the peace efforts and prompted the army offensive. US drone strikes resumed a few days after the Karachi attack, though Pakistani officials insist they have not given their approval.

Published in Dawn, July 11th, 2014