PESHAWAR: Seventeen people were killed and several others injured in two missile attacks by US drones in North and South Waziristan agencies on Friday evening. However, private television channels put the death toll in the two Waziristan attacks at 32.
Eight people were killed in the first missile strike in Mirali, North Waziristan Agency (NWA), and nine others in another attack on Wana, the adjacent South Waziristan Agency (SWA).
Two CIA-operated pilotless spy planes first fired two Hellfire missiles on a car at Esori village near Mirali subdivision and killed four people inside the vehicle and same number standing outside.
Security officials based in Miramshah, the headquarters of NWA, told The News by telephone that 20 people, including tribal and Arab militants, had been killed in the attack by the pilotless US aircraft.
The officials said a senior al-Qaeda commander, Abu Akasha al-Iraqi, was said to be the prime target of the US drone attack. They claimed that Akasha, along with his close aides, had been killed in the missile hit. However, sources among the militants claimed that only four militants had lost their lives. They included an Arab and three tribals hailing from Dawar tribe.
The sources said two US spy planes that had been flying over Mirali and adjoining villages since Friday morning fired two Hellfire missiles at around 8:30 pm on a car as soon as it stopped near the main gate of the house of Amanullah Dawar.
Amanullah Dawar is reported to have close contacts with Abu Akasha and would often receive foreign guests in his house. “Only the car had been destroyed in the attack while the house of Amanullah remained safe,” a militant commander told this scribe soon after the attack on the village.
He admitted that Abu Akasha had been living in the area for the past several years, along with his family, and was widely considered as spiritual figure rather than a militant commander. According to the sources, the 45-year old Arab commander had parted ways with the mainstream al-Qaeda three years back and formed his own militant organisation “Jaishul Mehdi”.
“He was not happy with al-Qaeda people and often complained that the network had been hijacked by the Egyptians. He then formed his own militant organisation, comprising his own countrymen and Uzbeks, Turkmen and Chechens,” said the sources.
He was living with his Iraqi wife and children, including three sons. His elder son, Abu Bakar, died two years ago, along with senior al-Qaeda commander, Abu Hamza al-Muhajir at Anghar village near Miramshah in a US drone attack.
The sources close to the Arab commander said his 20-year-old son was fluent in English, Pushto, Urdu and Persian languages. “He was not as much active in Jihad these days but people of his organisation were taking part in Jihad against the US-led forces in Afghanistan,” said the sources close to Abu Akasha.
In SWA, nine people, including Ahmadzai Wazir and suspected Arab militants, were killed and several others injured in another missile attack by three US Predators at Dhog village near Wana, on Friday evening.
Official and tribal sources told this scribe that three US spy planes were seen hovering over the tribal region during the missile attack. They said the planes fired three Hellfire missiles on the house of one Haroon Wazir, a spokesman for Maulvi Nazeer, the leader of the pro-government tribal militants operating in SWA.
A senior militant commander on condition of anonymity told The News from Wana that the dead included six Arabs. He was of the opinion that some important foreign guests used to visit the house.
“We lost some of our very senior people in this attack. It’s a great loss to us,” remarked a militant commander of Maulvi Nazeer group.Tribal sources said the house targeted by the US planes was about one-and-a-half kilometre from the Army base in Wana.
In both the cases, the security forces remained silent and did not bother to take note of the continuous flights and subsequent attacks by the US spy planes on the Pakistani soil.Tribal sources also said that two US fighter planes were seen flying several kilometres deep inside the Pakistani tribal areas on Friday.
“Yes, they violated our airspace several times on Friday. Our job was to report to the higher authorities based in Islamabad and Peshawar and we have already done that,” said an official based in Miramshah.