Fri, 16 Nov 2018

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan - Many suspected Islamist fighters were killed Wednesday in an American drone attack on a militant hideout in Pakistan's turbulent northwest, intelligence officials said.

The officials, pleading anonymity because they are not authorized to speak to the media on such sensitive issues, said at least seven militants were killed when two missiles fired from an American-operated drone hit the village of Datta Khel in North Waziristan.

The area is said to be a stronghold of Al Qaeda and Taliban-linked fighters near the Afghan border.

The officials said most of the militants killed in the attack were foreigners though their identities were not revealed.

The Pakistan Foreign Office (FO) said in a statement the government of Pakistan "condemns the incident of a U.S. drone strike".

"Pakistan regards such strikes as a violation of its sovereignty and territorial integrity. These strikes also have a negative impact on the government's efforts to bring peace and stability in Pakistan and the region," the statement said said.

The attack was the fourth drone strike by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in Pakistan during the past few months after a break of about six months.

Last month, two strikes in the same area killed at least 26 militants.

The drone strikes came as the Pakistan army has launched a military operation against the militants of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Taliban and other militant groups in the North Waziristan tribal region after peace talks with the government failed.

The military ordered the civilian population in the area to leave before it launched a ground offensive, forcing an estimated 1 million people into nearby Pakistani towns and cities.

Islamist militants with the Pakistani Taliban and their allies in lead have been waging a bloody insurgency against the government for years in Pakistan that has killed tens of thousands of civilians and security personnel.

The militant groups want to impose strict Islamic code in the country after throwing away the democratically elected government in Islamabad.

Islamist fighters are also opposed to Pakistan's unpopular alliance with the US. They launch frequent attacks on NATO supply trucks to Afghanistan in border areas.

Drone strikes by America's CIA are a serious source of diplomatic tension between Washington and Islamabad.

Pakistan denounces the strikes as a violation of the country's sovereignty. But the US says Pakistan officials know about these operations and their opposition is only a public posturing.

The United Kingdom-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism has recently reported that 700 people were identified out of 2,342 who lost their lives during the CIA-operated drones in Pakistan and nearly half of them are stated to be civilians including 99 children.

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