Huffpost WorldPost

First 2 Drone Strikes Of The Year Hit Pakistan, Kill 10 Suspected Militants

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By Mehreen Zahra-Malik and Haji Mujtaba

ISLAMABAD/MIRANSHAH, June 12 (Reuters) - Ten militants were killed in this year's first two drone strikes in Pakistan, officials said on Thursday, six months after the attacks were suspended by Washington to give it space to pursue peace talks with the Taliban.

Just days after a deadly Taliban attack on Karachi airport, two top government officials told Reuters the drone strikes were carried out this week as a coordinated "joint Pakistan-U.S. operation".

Military sources said six militants including four Uzbeks were killed in the first strike on Wednesday around five km north of Miranshah, the capital of the North Waziristan tribal region where Taliban insurgents are holed up.

The second attack killed four militants in the same area around 2 a.m. on Thursday.

The strikes are the first in the nuclear-armed South Asian nation since an attack in December last year in which three suspected militants were killed.

At least 38 people, including 10 insurgents, were killed when militants raided the country's busiest airport on Sunday night, an attack which all but destroyed any hopes for a peace settlement with the Taliban.

Two top government officials said Pakistan had given the Americans "express approval" for the latest strikes - the first time Pakistan has admitted to such cooperation.

"The attacks were launched with the express approval of the Pakistan government and army," said a top government official, requesting not to be named as he was not authorized to discuss the issue with the media.

"It is now policy that the Americans will not use drones without permission from the security establishment here. There will be complete coordination and Pakistan will be in the loop.

"We understand that drones will be an important part of our fight against the Taliban now," the official added.

Another official said Pakistan had asked the Americans for help after the attack on Karachi airport, and would be intensifying air strikes on militant hideouts in coming days.

Pakistan has always publicly opposed U.S. drone strikes, saying they kill too many civilians and violate its sovereignty, although in private officials have admitted the government supports them.

The Pakistani government is weighing all options after the Karachi attack.

Speculation has been rising that Pakistan is preparing for a full-scale military operation in North Waziristan, a scenario Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has resisted for months in favor of a negotiated end to the insurgency.

The Pakistani Taliban are allied with the Afghan militants of the same name and share a similar jihadist ideology.

But they operate as a separate entity, focused entirely on toppling the Pakistani state and establishing strict Islamic rule in the nuclear-armed nation, whereas the Afghan Taliban are united by their campaign against invading foreign forces. (Additional reporting by Asim Tanveer in Multan Editing by Maria Golovnina and Nick Macfie)