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October 18, 2017

US launches more drone attacks

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October 18, 2017

PESHAWAR: At least 31 people were killed, 12 injured in three drone strikes targeting areas near the Pak-Afghan border in Afghanistan over the last 24 hours, as the United States carried out more attacks on Tuesday.  

 Also on Tuesday, a drone attack in the Ghuzdari area of Paktia province, near the Pak-Afghan border, killed at least six people and injured one.  Sources said the drone fired two missiles on a house in the area. According to them, drones could be seen flying over the area after the attack. 

The first attack of the day occurred in the Khanachi area of Paktia which killed six people and injured one. Sources added the strikes targeted hideouts of Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), Jamat-ul-Ahrar and the Haqqani Network and fired a total of 10 missiles.

"Four unmanned drones fired six missiles in Monday's attack, and four more were fired in two strikes on Tuesday," Baseer Khan Wazir, the top administrative official in the Kurram Agency, part of Federally Administered Tribal Areas, told Reuters. The drones fired missiles on Taliban hideouts, killing at least 31 people over two days, he added, with all the three attacks taking place on the Afghan side. "Twenty people were killed yesterday, mostly from the Afghan Taliban, and 11 more were killed in today’s attacks," Wazir told Reuters.

Taliban sources said 18 members of the Haqqani militants, allied to the Taliban, were killed in Monday’s strike and six in one of Tuesday’s attacks. "There were some mud-built houses which were being used by the mujahideen (Afghan Taliban fighters)," said a member of the Afghan Taliban, who asked not to be identified.

No prominent militants were in the area when the drones targeted two or three different compounds, he added. Another Taliban source said two commanders were killed in Monday’s attack, however. Witnesses said they heard the drones and saw plumes of smoke rising from the affected area,  before seeing 20 makeshift coffins being moved out of the area.

Residents of the area said the strikes were made no more than 300 meters (yards) from the Pakistan side of the border. "There are always drones hovering over this border area, but this was the first time four drones were noticed at the same time," said Kurram resident Gulab Sher.

The Inter-Services PublicRelations also denied that any strikes took place in the Kurram Agency or inside Pakistani territory. It added that operations are being carried out against terrorists in Afghanistan, which involves air activity. 

At least 20 people were believed killed and 10 injured in a drone attack near the same area on Monday. Six missile strikes were reported to have been carried out.   AFP adds from Gardez: Two separate suicide and gun attacks on police and soldiers in Afghanistan left at least 71 dead and nearly 170 wounded on Tuesday in the latest devastating assaults on beleaguered security forces.

The Taliban claimed the more deadly of the two assaults, a coordinated attack on police in the southeast city of Gardez in Paktia province. That assault killed 41 people and injured 158, according to the interior ministry, and left hospital officials calling for blood donations. There were desperate scenes as relatives queued for news of loved ones after the hours-long battle.

A separate ambush blamed on the Taliban in the neighbouring province of Ghazni killed 25 security officials and five civilians with 10 wounded, the interior ministry said. Afghanistan’s army and police, on the front line against the Taliban since foreign combat forces pulled back in December 2014, have suffered shocking casualties over the past year. Their ranks are beset by corruption and desertion.

"The hospital is overwhelmed and we call on people to donate blood," said Shir Mohammad Karimi, deputy health director in Gardez, who put the number of wounded there at more than 200.

Doctors and nurses rushed to attend to the wounded women, children and police filling the corridors where some bodies also lay. Outside, university students formed a queue to donate blood.

The attack, claimed by the Taliban in a tweet, began when two suicide bombers driving an explosives-laden truck and a Humvee blew them up near the training centre, which is close to the Paktia police headquarters.

The blasts flattened a building and enabled gunmen to force their way inside the compound, according to officials and the interior ministry. "Most of the victims are civilians who had come to the police headquarters to get their passports and national IDs," a statement from the Paktia governor’s office said.

A university student who was in class at the time said he heard "a big boom" which shook the building and shattered windows. "As we were trying to find our way (out of the building) I heard a second blast and then the dust and dirt covered us in the class. Several of my classmates were wounded by broken glass," Noor Ahmad said.

The battle between the attackers, armed with guns and suicide vests, and security forces lasted around five hours before it ended with all five militants killed, officials said. Photos posted on Twitter showed two large plumes of smoke rising above the city.

The second attack, in Ghazni some 100 kilometres west of Gardez, followed a similar pattern involving insurgents detonating an explosives-laden Humvee near a police headquarters then storming the building, Haref Noori, the Ghazni governor’s spokesman said.

"Dozens of Taliban" were killed in the attack, Ghazni police chief Mohammad Zaman said. Afghan President Ashraf Ghani condemned the attacks and praised the "bravery and sacrifice" of security forces. On Monday the US also carried out strikes in the Jaji Maidan district of Paktia "under counter-terror authorities", said US Forces spokesman Navy Captain Tom Gresback.  

APP adds from Islamabad: Meanwhile, Pakistan strongly condemned the terrorist attack that targeted the police training academy in the Gardez City of Paktia province, Afghanistan in which many precious human lives were lost while a number of innocent people were injured.

According to a statement issued by the Foreign Office here, the government of Pakistan is deeply saddened and grieved over the loss of precious lives in the attack. "We extend our heartfelt condolences to the families of those who lost their loved ones in this brutal terrorist attack and to the government and the people of Afghanistan. We also pray for the speedy recovery of the wounded", it added.

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