3 Missile Strikes Hit Northwest Pakistan
By Sean Maroney
30 September 2009
Pakistani officials say three suspected U.S. missile strikes have hit the country's Waziristan tribal regions since late Tuesday, reportedly killing at least 18 militants. But such attacks may in fact hurt public perception ahead of an anticipated Pakistani military offensive in the area.
The latest missile strike occurred Wednesday in the North Waziristan tribal region.
It was the third strike in 24 hours allegedly by unmanned U.S. planes that targeted suspected Taliban and al-Qaida militants along the Afghan border.
A similar strike late Tuesday hit an alleged Taliban compound in North Waziristan.
Analysts believe this area is a stronghold for Afghan Taliban commander Jalaluddin Haqqani, who is blamed for attacks in Afghanistan against the Afghan government and foreign troops.
Hours earlier, another suspected U.S. drone fired two missiles that reportedly struck a Pakistani Taliban commander's house in South Waziristan.
Also Wednesday, the British Broadcasting Corporation's Urdu-language service received video allegedly showing the body of former Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud. The video showed minor injuries to the right side of his face and his body was covered with a white sheet.
Officials believe Mehsud died in an earlier U.S. missile strike.
U.S. and international intelligence officials say such strikes have helped to significantly reduce the al-Qaida network's effectiveness.
But the former security chief of Pakistan's tribal regions, Mahmood Shah, tells VOA that these strikes ultimately hurt Pakistan.
"[The] elimination of certain individuals, yes it is to the advantage of Pakistan. But destabilization, it is injurious to Pakistan," he said.
Analysts believe the Pakistani military is on the verge of launching a major campaign in South Waziristan, following the success of its operation in and around Swat Valley.
Shah says the United States appeared to have no involvement in the Swat offensive. He says he believes that played a key role in the Pakistani military's success.
"If it had some sort of assistance from the U.S., I think the support from the people of Pakistan would not have been there. So I think it was hugely successful because it was through an indigenous plan, and that it was without U.S. support," he said.
While most of the focus has been on militancy in Pakistan's northwest, U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan, Anne Patterson, reportedly said U.S. forces are turning their gaze on the country's southwestern province of Baluchistan. U.S. officials say they believe fugitive Taliban leader Mohammad Omar is based around the province's capital of Quetta.
In an interview with The Washington Post, Patterson expressed concern about Omar and his council of lieutenants, who reportedly plan and launch cross-border strikes from their Pakistani safe havens.
But days earlier, senior Pakistani military officials spoke in Quetta, denying that Omar or his commanders where operating in the area.
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