Times 2

US drone kills 23 after Taliban attack in PAK

MIRANSHAH, Pakistan, April 23 (AFP) - A US drone strike targeting Taliban in northwest Pakistan killed 23 people including three civilians yesterday, officials said, after 16 security forces died in an insurgent attack.

It was the first missile strike to hit North Waziristan tribal district since a diplomatic furore erupted between Pakistan and the United States over a drone attack on March 17, which killed 39 people including civilians.

The pilotless aircraft targeted two compounds in Spinwam, 40 kilometres (25 miles) northeast of Miranshah, the main town in North Waziristan. “The drones launched two successive attacks. In the first strike they fired two missiles and in the second they released three more,” a military official in the area said.

Military officials in Peshawar said the death toll had risen from 20 to 23, with two women and one boy among the dead, although that could not be independently verified. Another official said the rest of the dead were insurgents, but there was no report of any high value target and their nationalities were unknown.

In the far north of the troubled region bordering war-torn Afghanistan, 16 security officials were killed on Thursday in Taliban attacks on a checkpost being set up on the frontier, a military official said. That strike came one day after a Washington meeting between Lieutenant General Ahmad Shuja Pasha, the chief of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency, and Leon Panetta, director of the CIA, which runs the drone war.

However on Thursday army chief General Ashfaq Kayani said in a statement that drones “not only undermine our national effort against terrorism but also turn public support against our efforts”. Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, on a trip to Islamabad this week accused the ISI of having ties with the Afghan Taliban in Pakistan's northwest tribal belt.

The White House also criticised Pakistan's efforts to defeat the Taliban operating on the border in a report this month that was rejected by Islamabad.

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