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• JuA chief Umar Khalid Khorasani reportedly wounded
• ISPR says US-led Resolute Support Mission timely sharing details of operation within Afghan territory

PARACHINAR: Another drone attack on an alleged hideout of militants in the Pak-Afghan border region close to Kurram Agency killed six suspects on Tuesday.

Sources said that Umar Khalid Khorasani aka Abdul Wali, the chief of the outlawed Jamaat-ul-Ahrar (JuA), was wounded in the drone strike that took place in Afghanistan’s Paktia province. He was moved to an unknown location by his accomplices.

On Monday, a drone strike killed 14 suspected militants associated with the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani network in the same border region. Later, the area was pounded by jet fighters which targeted alleged hideouts of the militants.

The renewed wave of CIA-operated drone attacks followed by aerial bombardment in the border region indicated a new-found security cooperation between the United States and Pakistan in the wake of rescue of a US-Canadian family — kidnapped by militants five years ago in Afghanistan — last week in the tribal region.

Terming the recent drone attacks “air engagements inside Afghanistan” that caused heavy losses to militants, the Inter-Services Public Relations said that there had been no “drone strike in Kurram Agency” and no air violation along the Pak-Afghan border.

Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif also told a private news channel on Tuesday that the recent US drone attacks targeted the Pak-Afghan border area and did not happen inside Pakistan’s territory.

The ISPR said that the US-led Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan was carrying out a military operation in Khost and Paktia opposite Kurram Agency and it “timely shares details about the operation within Afghan territory”.

A spokesman for Paktia governor, Abdullah Asrat, said drone strikes killed 35 Taliban fighters, including a commander of Pakistani Taliban, in Afghanistan’s east, near the border with Pakistan, according to Associated Press.

On Tuesday, US drones targeted a compound in Khosh Haram area in Paktia province adjacent to Kurram Agency’s Kharlachi area.

Locals in Kharlachi said that they saw a plume of smoke after the missile hit the compound. The drones continued to fly in the area after the attack.

Around six militants were killed and an unknown number of suspects wounded. Later, it emerged that the chief of JuA — a splinter group of outlawed Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan — was the target of the drone strike. However, he was not among the dead.

Khorasani hails from Mohmand Agency and Pakistan has said that his group operates from Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province.

The ISPR said that as a follow-up of the visit of Chief of the Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa to Afghanistan “coordination between the forces has enhanced”.

“A better security coordination will take both countries towards enduring peace and stability defeating the common enemy,” it said in a statement.

The army chief visited Kabul earlier this month and later US Defence Secretary James Mattis told a US congressional panel that there was optimism in the US and Afghanistan that Gen Bajwa’s visit “presages a new chapter”.

Meanwhile, about the death toll in the Monday incident, officials said that 14 people had been killed in the Ghuzgarhi area.

Sources in Peshawar told Dawn jet fighters had carried out intense bombing that caused damage on the other side of the border. Two key militant commanders were reportedly killed in Monday’s strike.

A source said that 20 coffins were sent from Sadda Town, the tehsil headquarters of lower Kurram, to Ghuzgarhi on Tuesday.

A resident of Ghuzgarhi said that Monday’s strike targeted a seminary that caused heavy casualties.

He said that continuous movement of drones and heavy bombardment by fighter jets caused delay in the rescue work. “People took shelter in the basements of residential compound when bombardment intensified,” he said.

Around 100 people from the nearby villages rushed to the area to take part in the rescue work, but they were stopped from going there.

Published in Dawn, October 18th, 2017