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Dead include Arabs, local tribesmen
- Saturday, January 24, 2009 - From Print Edition


PESHAWAR: Twenty people, majority of them local tribesmen, were killed and several others were injured in two different missile strikes by US drones in North and South Waziristan tribal agencies on Friday evening, the first such attacks after the takeover by Barack Obama as the US president.


In the first incident, 10 people were killed and several others injured when a US drone fired three Hellfire missiles on a Hujra (male guest house) of Khalil Dawar in Zyaraki village of North Waziristan. According to sources, two spy planes were seen flying over the Mirali town during the strike.


The guest house adjacent to Khalil’s house in Zyaraki village, five kilometres west of Mirali, was razed to the ground in the attack.


Sources close to the militants told The News the drone fired missiles after some guests, probably foreign militants, entered the Hujra of Khalil Dawar. They said besides Khalil, his two sons, brother Mansoor, a nephew and six other people were killed in the attack.


A senior government official based at Miramshah insisted that six among the dead were hardcore militants, including four Arabs and a Punjabi Talib.Pleading anonymity, the official said the drone fired three missiles on the same building where the Arabs and their hosts were present.


Sources said Khalil himself was not a militant, but had good relations with the Taliban and was considered a trustworthy tribal host of Taliban fighters in the area.Taliban sources said the bodies of the victims were mutilated beyond recognition.


They said dozens of armed militants immediately arrived there and cordoned off the area. As usual, the militants prevented villagers from visiting the destroyed building till all the bodies and injured people were recovered from the rubble of the guest house.


The drone attack came after a month of silence, as Taliban operating there claimed to have busted a network of US spies.The Taliban also claimed to have killed 40 out of 80 alleged US spies, captured on charges of spying on so-called Mujahideen for the US forces across the border in Afghanistan.


It was the first missile attack by the US spy planes in North Waziristan this year. Three to four suspected militants were killed in the last attack by US drones in Tolkhel village near Miramshah on December 15.


In the second incident, another 10 people were killed in the adjoining South Waziristan Agency when a US drone fired two Hellfire missiles on the house of a local tribesman, Dil Faraz Gangikhel Wazir, in Gangikhel village, near Wana.


Official and tribal sources insisted all those killed in the missile attack were local tribesmen.They said Dil Faraz, his three sons, two nephews and some guests were killed in the attack.A Wana-based official of the political administration said the drone had probably missed the target and killed only innocent people. He said four children also lost their lives in the attack.


Tribal sources dispelled rumours that foreign militants were killed in the attack in Gangikhel village. Residents said three spy planes were spotted flying over various villages of South Waziristan since Friday morning.


It was the third attack by the US drones in South Waziristan this month and the first after Obama took oath of his office.Two senior al-Qaeda operatives of Kenyan origin — Usama al-Kini and his close aide Sheikh Ahmad Salim Swedan — were killed in US missile strikes in Karikot village of South Waziristan on Jan 1.Relations between the government and Ahmadzai Wazirs have already been tense over frequent missile attacks in the tribal region.