KOHAT, April 1 Twelve militants were killed when a US drone fired missiles on the suspected headquarters of the local Taliban chief in Khadezai area of Orakzai region on Wednesday. According to reports reaching here, two women were also killed in the attack.
Local people said the double-storey building had been hit by at least two missiles. It could not be ascertained if any prominent militant leader was killed in the attack. Thirteen people were wounded.
This was the first drone attack in the Orakzai region. The pilotless drone aircraft have earlier targeted militants' hideouts in North and South Waziristan and Kurram agencies and Bannu district in the settled area.
Officials and eyewitnesses said the bodies retrieved from the debris were taken to the Ghiljo hospital in Upper Orkazai. Officials said that besides the local Taliban some tribesmen from Waziristan were staying in the building adjacent to an old seminary.
Sources said that foreigners living in the area were left unharmed by the strike.
The drones were first seen in the area about three months ago and they have since been flying over the region regularly, after reports that suicide squads prepared by Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan were planning attacks across the country.
Last year militants killed more than 130 people in an attack on a Jirga which had decided to demolish the headquarters of the TTP in Khadezai. The attack was seen as a warning to tribal elders to stop supporting the government and the operation against Taliban.
After the attack, elders pledged to provide protection to Taliban and told the government that they would deal with the militants in accordance with traditional customs which meant that action would be taken against them only if they harmed tribesmen and that they would be allowed to live as guests as long as long they wanted.
Hakimullah Mehsud, a Taliban commander loyal to Baitullah Mehsud, told Reuters on Wednesday evening that six of his fighters had been killed in the missile attack. He vowed revenge.
It was Hakimullah's compound which was hit by the drone. “This wasn't a minor thing. The pain
of this attack will be felt
in Islamabad,” he said by telephone from an undisclosed location.
He did not elaborate but said his men would not give up their fight “Let the Americans use all their drones, we'll fight them on the battlefield.” Another Taliban official who declined to be identified said an Arab militant known as Kaka was also killed in the attack.
About 150 clerics and elders from Mehsud tribe held a protest in the town of Tank to condemn the drone strike.
One cleric, Hassamuddin, told the crowd the government had approved the US strikes. The government denies reports it has quietly given permission for the strikes and that the drones are launched from a secret airstrip in Pakistan.