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Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Drones attack Taliban targets in Pakistan

Financial Times story by Farhan Bokhari in Islamabad

Published: May 12 2010 03:10

CIA-flown pilot-less drone aircraft on Tuesday fired more than 15 missiles at a suspected Taliban stronghold in Pakistan’s lawless north Waziristan region killing at least 24 suspected militants.

The attack was the biggest of its kind since the failed attempt by Faisal Shahzad, a Pakistani-born US national, to blow up New York’s Times Square on May 1.

Tuesday’s attack, said by a Pakistani intelligence official to be “Washington’s payback”, follows claims by US officials that Mr Shahzad is connected to Taliban militants. Mr Shahzad was arrested last week.

The Pakistani intelligence official said the missiles hit two targets – a vehicle driving three militants through a village and a nearby compound used for the training of recruits.

The attack took place in an area known to be controlled by Gul Bahadur, a Taliban commander.

In the past few months, US officials have increasingly acknowledged Pakistan’s growing importance as an ally in Washington’s efforts to secure the Afghanistan-Pakistan region where al-Qaeda and Taliban militants continue to pose a major resistance.

Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Pakistan’s foreign minister, on Tuesday said relations between the US and Pakistan continued to improve, brushing aside concerns over tensions after the failed New York bombing attempt. “There is nothing to worry about, our relationship is smooth and it is moving towards a partnership,” he said.

But a foreign ministry official in Islamabad warned that further US attacks on Pakistani soil of the kind seen on Tuesday will “inevitably bring in frictions of the kind that no one wants to see. You can’t bomb a country increasingly and expect cordial relations at the same time.”

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