U.S. Kills as many as 80 people in Pakistan

By Xinhua

March 18, 2011 "
Xinhua" -- The death toll has kept rising as more information came in from the remote area with inadequate communication facilities. Some local media reports said the target of the U.S. drones is a house at a village in the Datta Khel area in which a meeting was being held by local Taliban militants while others reported that the target was actually a tribal "jirga" or council of elders to resolve dispute over the ownership of minerals in the mountains in North Waziristan tribal region.

According to a tribal elder who asked to remain anonymous in a telephone interview from Miranshah, center of North Waziristan, the tribesmen from Madda Khel tribe were holding a meeting at Nawai Adda area, some 25 kilometers from Miranshah, when two U.S. drones fired four missiles at the participants of the tribal council at 11:30 am (local time)

The elder said that the strike killed 41 people including six tribal elders and some children.

The injured were later transferred to the hospital in Miranshah and some of them were in critical condition, said hospital sources.

The tribal elder rejected the reports that the target was a meeting held by militants. He said that all were local tribesmen. He said that the Madda Khel tribe had sold a chromite mine on 8.8 million rupees (slightly over 100,000 US dollars) to a man and both parties later disagreed over the payment method and the jirga was called to settle the dispute.

Member of National Assembly from the region, Kamran Khan, condemned the drone strike and said that mostly innocent people were killed and injured in the Thursday's strike.

Residents said that they had seen four drones hovering over the area before and after the attack. They said two aircraft fired missiles.

Thursday's strike is the 23rd of its kind in Pakistan since 2011 and also one of the most deadly strikes in the country over the last few years. To date, at least 187 people have reportedly been killed in such strikes since this year.

Pakistan Army Chief Condemns US Drone Strike That Killed 40 Civilians

By BNO News

March 18, 2011 "
New Karla" -- RAWALPINDI, PAKISTAN : Pakistan's army chief on Thursday condemned the latest strikes by U.S. unmanned drones that killed at least 40 people and wounded 15 others in North Waziristan, the Associated Press of Pakistan reported.

"Pakistan Army has already launched a protest in the strongest possible terms. It has been highlighted clearly that such aggression against people of Pakistan is unjustified and intolerable under any circumstances," Chief of Army Staff, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, said.

Initial reports indicated that the U.S. unmanned aircraft launched six missile strikes targeting Taliban fighters in the Datta Khel area of the region, around 40 kilometers (24.8 miles) west of Miranshah and near the Afghan border. Later, media reports, including those from NBC News, said a residential area was hit where local elders were meeting.

The army chief said in a press release that it is highly regrettable that a jirga, or open-air meeting, of peaceful citizens including elders of the area was carelessly and callously targeted with complete disregard to human life, according to the Associated Press of Pakistan.

He added "in complete violation of human rights, such acts of violence take us away from our objective of elimination of terrorism. It is imperative to understand that this critical objective cannot be sacrificed for temporary tactical gains. Security of people of Pakistan, in any case, stands above all."

Lastly, Kayani offered his condolences to the victims' families and said that troops on ground have been ordered to render all possible assistance to them.

The United States is most active in the North Waziristan area as the region is known to be a stronghold of the Haqqani Network, which is considered one of the top terrorist organizations and threats to U.S. forces in Afghanistan.

The U.S. drone campaign in Pakistan is aimed at disrupting al-Qaida and the Taliban in the border area with Afghanistan, which the United States considers to be the most dangerous place on Earth. As of Monday, U.S. drone strikes in the region this year have killed at least 80 people, many whom are believed to have been militants.

But controversy has surrounded the drone strikes as local residents and officials have blamed them for killing innocent civilians and motivating young men to join the Taliban. In addition, the Pakistani government does not support the strikes.