US drone strike in Pakistan kills 3 militants, stirs anger
ISLAMABAD (AP) — A suspected American drone fired two missiles at a home in a northwestern tribal region of Pakistan bordering Afghanistan, killing at least three foreign militants, Pakistani intelligence officials said Thursday.
The U.S. authorities often target Taliban, al-Qaida and their Pakistani supporters in the country’s tribal regions.
The latest strike took place just before midnight Wednesday in the village of Qutab Khel in North Waziristan and initial reports gathered from their agents in the field suggested the slain men were Arabs, the two intelligence officials said. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media.
The American drone program is extremely unpopular in Pakistan because it is perceived as killing innocent civilians, which the U.S. denies. Many in Pakistan also consider it an affront to their sovereignty but the U.S. has shown no indication it is willing to halt the program.
Angered over the strikes, supporters from cricket star-turned politician Imran Khan’s Tehreek-e-Insaf party in the northwest have been protesting along a main road used to truck NATO troop supplies in and out of Afghanistan for the past month, forcing the U.S. to stop shipments out of Afghanistan.
Khan has urged the government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to force the U.S. to end drone attacks and block NATO supplies across the country.
On Thursday, about 150 supporters from Khan’s party on the outskirts of the southwestern city of Quetta briefly blocked trucks carrying supplies for NATO forces heading toward Afghanistan, said a senior police official Abdul Rauf. But he said police ordered them to allow the trucks to proceed.
Trucks carrying NATO supplies pass through Quetta, the capital of southwestern Baluchistan province, before going through the Chaman border crossing — one of two routes used for supplies. The other route is further north.
“We briefly stopped some of the NATO trucks this morning, but now we are just holding a peaceful rally against the drone attacks,” said Abdul Wali Shakir, a spokesman for the Jamaat-e-Islami party, which also attended the rally, demanding an end to the drone strikes.
Drone strikes have been a source of tension between Islamabad and Washington.
Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry condemned the latest strike in a statement Thursday, saying such attacks were a violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. “There is an across-the-board consensus in Pakistan that these drone strikes must end,” it said.
“Such strikes also set dangerous precedents in the inter-state relations,” it said, adding the strikes had a negative impact on the government’s efforts to bring peace and stability in Pakistan and the region.
Islamabad and the country’s political parties regularly denounce the attacks as a violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty, although the country’s government is known to have supported some of the strikes in the past. The tension has further complicated a relationship that Washington views as vital to fight al-Qaida and the Taliban, as well as negotiate peace in Afghanistan.
The land routes through Pakistan from the southern port city of Karachi have been key to getting supplies to NATO troops in Afghanistan. They now increasingly are being used to ship equipment out of Afghanistan as the U.S. seeks to withdraw most of its troops from the country by the end of 2014.