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- Thursday, August 14, 2008 - From Print Edition


WANA/PESHAWAR: Twelve militants, including three Turkmen, some Arabs and Waziri tribal fighters, were killed and several others injured when an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) fired four Hellfire missiles on Shnawana village in the South Waziristan Agency (SWA), along the border with Afghanistan on Tuesday night.


Sources informed The News from Angoor Adda, a border town between the SWA and Afghanistan's troubled Paktika province, that two pilotless US planes were seen flying over the area during the attack on the village. They said four missiles were fired on the village in which 12 suspected militants were killed and several others injured.


Three of them were said to be Turkmen while others were Arab and local Waziri tribal militants. The sources said a house of pro-government tribal militant commander Abdur Rahman was destroyed in the attack in which Rahman and his brother Mohammad Islam died.


According to residents, two US planes were hovering over the area since Tuesday evening in the run-up to the drone attack. The planes fired four Hellfire missiles at around 10 pm at the compound where local and foreign militants were reportedly hiding.


The residents also said three Pakistan Army helicopters were seen flying over the area and continued hovering over there for almost the whole night after the air strike. Sources close to the militants led by pro-government militant Maulvi Nazeer said the Taliban fighters as usual besieged the damaged houses and retrieved the bodies of the slain fighters.


"The Taliban fighters always ring the affected area and don't allow villagers to visit the destroyed building. They get back all the bodies and then separate foreigners from the locals and bury them in different places," sources close to the militants maintained.


The sources said the injured, including women and children, were shifted to private hospitals in Wana. An official of the political administration based in Wana said they had learnt about the air strikes on Tuesday night but since the area was remote, details about the casualties came to them early Wednesday morning.


He said a house and Hujra (male guesthouse) were hit by the UAV where local tribal militants and their guests were staying. He said two planes were flying over the mountains of Baghar near Shnawana during the attack.


"The black one flew for surveillance while the white one hit the target," said the official who wished not to be named. He said they had no knowledge whether or not any important al-Qaeda commander was present in the building during the attack.


"Sometimes they (US) hit accurate targets inside our territory but most of the time they target civilians on the basis of wrong information given to them by their paid informers," the officer argued.


On the other hand, sources close to the militants said majority of the foreigners living earlier in villages of the Wazir-inhabited areas of the South Waziristan Agency had either moved to Afghanistan or mountainous territories of South Waziristan due to growing surveillance by US spy planes and air strikes on their hideouts.


It merits a mention here that senior al-Qaeda commander Abu Khubab al-Masri was killed along with his son, grandson and some close relatives in similar air strikes in Zyara Leeta village of the SWA a few weeks ago. Despite repeated attempts by this scribe, military spokesman Maj-Gen Athar Abbas could not be approached for official comments about the latest US air strikes on the Pakistani territory.


AFP adds: In Kabul, the US military said the missiles were not fired by either Nato's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) or the US-led coalition.


"This is not true. We have no reports of missiles being fired into Pakistan," US-led coalition spokesman Lieutenant Nathan Perry told AFP. The US Central Intelligence Agency is also known to operate pilotless drone aircraft armed with missiles, but it was not available for comment.


Another security official said the camp was run by a local militant, Zanjir Wazir, who he described as the "local commander of Hezb-e-Islami Afghanistan". Hekmatyar himself was not in the camp and is believed to be in Afghanistan, officials said.