At least 16 people were killed and five others wounded when an American drone strike hit a suspected Haqqani militant compound in a remote tribal region of northwestern Pakistan late Tuesday, according to Pakistani government and intelligence officials.
The strike was the deadliest since Pakistan’s new prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, took power a month ago and demanded an end to the drone attacks. A local government official said the house had been used by the militants for the past few months.
“At least four missiles were fired from two drones at a house of local tribesmen in Sarai Darpa Khel village at 11 p.m. last night,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
A local militant source said that the militants who were killed were from the Haqqani network, a group that is allegedly responsible for orchestrating and executing attacks against American and Afghan forces across the border in Afghanistan.
Sarai Darpa Khel, where the attack took place, is in North Waziristan, near the border with Afghanistan and just southwest of Miram Shah, the main town in the region.
According to residents, after the attack the site was quickly cordoned off to recover the bodies from the debris of the house that was attacked.
“I was sleeping on the roof of my shop as the drones were hovering in the sky,” said one resident, Qayyum Khan. “I woke up when I heard a huge bang. I saw smoke coming out of a house approximately at a distance of three kilometers.”
North Waziristan is one of seven semi-autonomous tribal regions of Pakistan, and it is a suspected stronghold for militants.
Drone strikes are hugely unpopular in Pakistan and are seen as a violation of the country’s sovereignty. Certain political parties and nationalists have made vociferous criticism of the strikes a cornerstone of their opposition to American policies.
The chorus of popular criticism has only grown louder in recent years despite muted acknowledgment by some Pakistani officials that the drone strikes have been effective.
A spokesman for the Pakistani Ministry of Foreign Affairs strongly protested the latest strike.
“These strikes are a violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” the spokesman said in a statement. “Pakistan has repeatedly emphasized the importance of bringing an immediate end to drone strikes.”
“The government of Pakistan has consistently maintained that drone strikes are counterproductive, entail loss of innocent civilian lives and have human rights and humanitarian implications,” the statement read. “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.”