PESHAWAR/WANA: Seventeen militants were killed and six others injured in two simultaneous drone strikes in the mountainous Bobar area of Srarogha subdivision in South Waziristan early on Wednesday, official and tribal sources said.
It was the first attack by CIA-operated spy planes in the Srarogha area located near the Frontier Region Jandola where the Pakistan Army had conducted an operation against the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) militants, headed by Hakimullah Mahsud in 2009.
Official sources said the drones fired 14 missiles at two houses, reportedly being used as training facilities by tribal militants. One of the camps was reportedly run by commander Abu Nasir and another by commander Mukhlis of the TTP. There was no information about the fate of the two commanders, though some reports said Mukhlis, along with three other commanders, had died in the attack on his camp.
Official sources said the death toll was 17, while six people were reportedly injured. Tribal sources put the death toll in both attacks at 22 and also said four of the injured had been shifted to a private medical facility in the Frontier Region, Tank, sited close to the Frontier Region, Jandola. The Frontier Region Jandola is known as the gateway to South Waziristan and is inhabited by the Bhittani tribe.
Security forces in October 2009 launched a military operation from the side of FR Jandola and then extended it to the nearby areas of Spinkai Raghzai and Kotkai, the hometown of TTP leader Hakimullah Mahsud in Srarogha Tehsil.
Tribal sources said militants had abandoned their positions in the mountains when the military launched a major operation against them. However, they later regrouped in the mountainous area and began attacks on security forces. Military authorities had claimed that the Srarogha Tehsil had been cleared of the militants and urged the displaced tribal families to return to their homes and villages they had vacated in 2009 due to the military operation.
Some of the displaced families have already returned to their villages in lower parts of Srarogha but those belonging to the upper part of the troubled area are reluctant to return to their native areas due to insecurity and potential threats from the militants.
The Pakistan Army has a huge presence in the areas that were once populated by the Mahsud tribe in South Waziristan. Some sources said the TTP militants, who were the target of the US drone strike on Wednesday, had recently returned to South Waziristan following the latest military action against them in the upper part of Orakzai Agency.