MIRAMSHAH/PESHAWAR: Forty-one people, majority of them civilians, including children, were killed and several others sustained injuries in one of the bloodiest attacks by the US drones in the remote Dattakhel area in North Waziristan on Thursday.
Security officials and tribal sources said majority of those killed and injured were local villagers holding a Jirga to resolve a dispute among various sub-tribes of Kazha Madakhel Wazir tribe over the ownership of the jointly owned hills containing limestone and other minerals and distribution of the money collected from these resources.
According to sources, when the Kazha Madakhel Wazir tribesmen were holding the Jirga in an open ground in the village, the drones were chasing a speedy car coming from somewhere near the Afghan border. The drones had by then fired four missiles at the car but missed the target as the driver was driving very fast to escape the missile strikes. The driver, who had panicked due to the continuous missile strikes on the car, drove towards the village and was passing by the place where the Jirga was in progress when his vehicle again came under attack.
The villagers said the drone fired two more missiles and struck the car, killing all the five men on board. The Jirga members decided to conclude their meeting and help retrieve the bodies of the victims that had been turned into pieces. The Jirga members had yet to move from their position when the drones started firing missiles on the gathering. “Four missiles were fired on the Jirga members, who included people from all ages. The next moment there was nothing except bodies of the slain men and injured all around,” said a tribesman, Samiullah, who had brought his njured relative to a distant hospital in Miramshah. He said only pieces of flesh could be collected after the attack and that too to satisfy the bereaved families wanting to bury their dead.
Announcements were made from loudspeakers in mosques appealing to the residents of nearby villages to come and help shift the injured people to hospitals and dig graves for the deceased. Later, in the evening, collective funeral prayer for 13 people was offered in the Dattakhel village. Among them were seven from the same family.
Tribal sources said graves could not be dug in time for the remaining dead and they would be laid to rest today (Friday). It took time for the poor tribesmen to arrange transport and shift the injured to hospital in the far away Miramshah town as the lone public sector hospital in Dattakhel has been in the use of the armed forces for the past couple of years.
By evening, the relatives somehow managed and shifted their injured to Miramshah, the headquarters of North Waziristan. The villagers said eight people succumbed to their injuries while being shifted to hospitals in Miramshah, which is about 45 kilometres east of Dattakhel.
In Miramshah, appeals were made from loudspeakers in mosques urging the people to generously donate blood for the injured people admitted to various hospitals in the town. Also, the authorities in Miramshah through a local radio advised the people to take their injured to the Pakistan Army and paramilitary Frontier Corps (FC) soldiers deployed on the Miramshah-Dattakhel Road to guide them and shift their injured to the military-run hospital located inside the strictly-guarded Miramshah Army Camp.
The Dattakhel area, which produces some minerals including chromite, has been under constant attacks by the US drones for the past few years. These strikes have killed several local and foreign terrorists, including al-Qaeda’s No 3 Abu Yazeed Mustafa al-Misri, and many tribesmen. It is the hometown of the Member of the National Assembly from North Waziristan, Kamran Khan.
APP adds from Islamabad: Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani has strongly condemned the drone attack in North Waziristan on Thursday and said it will only strengthen the radical and extremist elements. In a statement, the prime minister reiterated that such an irrational behaviour negatively impact the efforts to separate the militants from peaceful and patriotic tribesmen of the areas.
The prime minister said such attacks will bode very negatively on the efforts to eliminate the menace of terrorism in this region. He expressed grief and sorrow over the loss of innocent lives in the drone attack.
The Jamaat-e-Islami chief, Syed Munawar Hassan, also condemned the drone attacks in North Waziristan. He said the attacks causing dozens of deaths and injuries to many others were an open aggression by the US against the country.