A U.S. drone attack on Sunday killed at least six alleged militants and wounded three others in the northwestern tribal area of Pakistan, officials said.
The attack took place in the Shawal area of North Waziristan, which is a stronghold of Taliban and Al Qaeda-linked militants along the Afghan border.
Four unmanned aircraft hovered above a village in Shawal before one of them fired two missiles at a compound just before sunset.
“The compound was situated around three kilometers from the Afghan border. Militants surrounded it after the strike,” said a security official in Miranshah, North Wazirisan’s main town. “Militants had gathered in the compound around the sunset time and the drone strike came as they prepared to break their fast,” he said.
Local security officials said the alleged militants killed in the attack could be from Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, but their exact nationalities are yet to be ascertained. “The identities of the militants could not be verified because the dead bodies were badly mutilated,” said an intelligence official.
Another security official in Peshawar confirmed the attack and said the targeted area is a hub for militants during the summer. “The area targeted by the U.S. drones on Sunday is a hub for militants in the summer months. They migrate from other areas to Shawal because it is cooler,” he said.
In a statement issued following the attack, the Government of Pakistan has condemned it, reiterating its stance that the “unilateral strikes are a violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
“Such strikes also set dangerous precedents in inter-state relations,” it said, adding, “These drone strikes have a negative impact on the mutual desire of both countries to forge a cordial and cooperative relationship and to ensure peace and stability in the region.”
Attacks by unmanned American aircraft are deeply unpopular in Pakistan, but Washington views them as a vital tool in the fight against Taliban and Al- Qaeda militants in the lawless tribal areas along the border with Afghanistan.
The Pakistani government has repeatedly protested against drone strikes as a violation of its sovereignty. But privately officials have been reported as saying the attacks can be useful in removing militants from the country.