Drone strike reported in Pakistan tribal region
PESHAWAR, Pakistan — Two people suspected of being militants were killed Sunday morning in the volatile North Waziristan tribal region by what Pakistani and Taliban officials said was a drone strike.
If confirmed, the attack could be the first U.S. strike in Waziristan in two months — one of the longest operational pauses since the drone campaign started in earnest in mid-2008.
U.S. and Pakistani officials are at odds over whether two previous attacks this year were U.S. drone strikes or some other kind of violence.
Two Pakistani officials, one in Peshawar and another in the tribal belt, said that missiles fired from a drone operated by the CIA hit the two people in the village of Degan, about 20 miles from Miram Shah, the main town in North Waziristan.
“Details are sketchy. We don’t know the identity of those killed, and our local contacts say the bodies were unrecognizable and beyond recognition,” the senior official in Peshawar said, speaking on customary condition of anonymity. “We don’t know if they were locals or foreign militants.”
That official said the two people who were killed had been traveling on a motorcycle when the missile struck, but the official in the tribal belt said they were on horseback. There were some reports that three people were killed in the attack.
A Taliban spokesman in Miram Shah confirmed that two militants on a motorcycle had been killed in a drone strike. “I cannot confirm their nationality and group affiliation at the moment,” the spokesman said by telephone.
The timing and nature of the previous two reported strikes in Waziristan have become a matter of controversy between Pakistan and the United States.
Last week, U.S. officials denied any involvement in two strikes that Pakistani officials and the news media had reported as CIA drone strikes, on Feb. 6 and Feb. 8. Afterward, a U.S. official quoted in The New York Times said that at least one of the attacks could have been a conventional airstrike by the Pakistani military. That claim was rejected by Pakistani officials.
The last drone attack that was recognized by both Pakistan and the United States, albeit unofficially, was on Jan. 10.
Separately, the police in Lahore said they had arrested 150 men in connection with an attack on a Christian colony on Saturday in which about 170 homes and two churches were burned.
The attack, which involved several thousand people, was spurred by accusations of blasphemy against a Christian sanitation worker earlier in that week.