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Sunday, May 17, 2009
From Print Edition
 
 

 

Senior Taliban commanders among those killed in deadliest US attacks so far

 

By Mushtaq Yusufzai, Mumtaz Khan & Haji Mujtaba

 

PESHAWAR/MIRAMSHAH: Forty people, most of them militants, were killed and several others critically injured in two successive attacks by US spy planes at Khaisur village of Mirali subdivision of North Waziristan Agency on Saturday morning.

 

“It is the biggest-ever loss for the Mujahideen in the tribal areas so far,” militant sources claimed.

 

Tribal sources said two US spy planes were seen flying over Khaisur village, 20 kilometres south of the Mirali subdivision, the second major town of militancy-wrecked North Waziristan tribal region.

 

The drones fired two missiles at a double-cabin pick-up parked close to a mud-house allegedly used as a hideout by the Taliban militants.

 

According to sources, the militants had just sat in the vehicle and were due to travel to some undisclosed location when they came under attack around 8:00 am.

 

Soon after the attack, other militants staying at the building arrived and started rescue work. “They were recovering bodies of the slain militants when the drone fired two more missiles, almost 12 minutes after the first attack. It was terrible as almost all the Taliban involved in rescue work were targeted,” stated a local militant commander based in Mirali.

 

Pleading anonymity, he said majority of the militants killed in the attack were local tribal militants, and their bodies were badly burnt and split into pieces.

 

“We lost very trained and sincere friends. Some of them were very senior Taliban commanders and had taken part in successful actions in Afghanistan. Bodies of most of them were beyond recognition,” the militant commander said in a choked voice.

 

He vowed they would take revenge on the American forces in Afghanistan for the killing of the Taliban.

 

“The Pakistan government has failed to protect us against the US aggression and, therefore, we will soon teach a lesson to the US troops in Afghanistan,” the enraged militant commander maintained.

 

He said the militants had made all arrangements for their trip to Afghanistan and fight against the US-led forces there. The militant commander said a few of the victims were Arab fighters.

 

He denied reports that senior al-Qaeda operatives were among the victims of the drone attacks. “It’s the biggest-ever loss of Mujahideen in any drone attack so far,” he claimed.

 

The militant commander admitted that US spies had entered their movement and that’s why the Taliban were now suffering heavy losses in drone attacks in North and South Waziristan tribal regions.

 

“There is no question for strange people to enter our centres. It is impossible without the involvement of people having close liaison with the Taliban,” said the Taliban commander.

 

Tribal sources in Mirali said the Taliban fighters cordoned off the venue after the first attack and did not allow the villagers to see what had happened to them. However, after the second attack, nobody was there in Khaisur village to retrieve the bodies of the slain militants. Even villagers were reluctant to go there and take part in rescue work.

 

It was later when the drones disappeared, the militants started arriving from the adjoining villages in pick-ups and cars in large numbers at the spot.

 

The villagers said some of the militants could not control their emotions and cried over the loss of senior fighters.

 

A government official in Mirali confirmed the drone attack in Khaisur village but said he did not know about the exact losses of the militants.

 

“Taliban always cordon off an area and don’t allow even local tribesmen to visit the targeted building,” the official said and declined to be named.

 

It is pertinent to mention here that Taliban in the tribal areas, particularly North and South Waziristan tribal regions where they are in full control, had killed dozens of people on charges of spying on the militants for the US forces in Afghanistan.

 

They usually behead the alleged US spies and then place their bodies at busy squares or roadside. However, they never punished their own people on charges of spying for the US forces.

 

It is astonishing that despite a full-scale military operation launched by Pakistan against the Taliban in the Malakand region, the US forces are yet to stop targeting the tribal areas while the drone strikes have been fuelling anger among the people against the Pakistan government and the armed forces.

 

AFP adds: Other intelligence officials put the death toll as high as 28, saying the dead were mostly local militants from a local Wazir tribe who had been preparing to leave for neighbouring Afghanistan to carry out attacks.