US drone targeting Pakistani Taliban deputy kills six

AFP , Wednesday 29 May 2013

US drone kills at least six in the village of Chashma, Pakistan

A US drone strike targeting the deputy chief of the Pakistani Taliban killed at least six people Wednesday, officials said, the first such attack since Washington laid down new guidelines for the controversial weapon.

Two people were wounded in the attack in Chashma village near Miranshah, the main town in North Waziristan district which is a stronghold of Taliban and Al-Qaeda-linked militants on the Afghan border.

Security sources told AFP the target was Waliur Rehman, the second-in-command of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), who has a $5 million US government bounty on his head.

There were reports from some sources that Rehman was killed in the strike, though this could not immediately be confirmed.

The TTP refused to comment, with spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan telling AFP: "We have nothing on this."

High-level security officials said a ground search was under way to determine whether Rehman was killed or survived.

Washington accuses Rehman of organising attacks against US and NATO forces in Afghanistan and also wants him in connection with a suicide attack on an American base in Afghanistan in 2009 that killed seven CIA agents.

Drone strikes have been unpopular in Pakistan, where the government publicly denounces them as illegal and a violation of sovereignty. But Washington believes they have been effective in wiping out Taliban and Al-Qaeda leaders.

Obama last week defended the legality of the CIA-run strikes, which began in Pakistan in 2004 but became more frequent during his presidency. But he outlined new rules for their use.

The guidelines say drone strikes can only be used to prevent imminent attacks, when the capture of a suspect is not feasible and if there is a "near certainty" that civilians will not be killed.

Responding to Obama's speech, the Pakistani foreign ministry repeated its long-held view that US drone strikes are illegal and counterproductive.

Leaked diplomatic cables and a television interview by former military ruler Pervez Musharraf have however indicated that Islamabad has privately approved the strikes in the past.

Wednesday's attack was the first since Pakistan's 11 May general election, won by the Pakistan Muslim League-N of Nawaz Sharif.

Sharif, due to assume office on June 5, has called the drone strikes a "challenge" to his country's sovereignty and said Washington must take Pakistani concerns seriously.

According to Britain's Bureau of Investigative Journalism, CIA drone attacks targeting suspected Al-Qaeda and Taliban militants in Pakistan have killed up to 3,587 people since 2004, including up to 884 civilians.

The frequency of drone strikes in Pakistan has tailed off in recent months, the last coming on 17 April.

On Sunday US Secretary of State John Kerry said this was because the tactic had "been so successful in rooting out Al-Qaeda in Pakistan" and was only used after targets were confirmed "at the highest levels".

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