US Raid Kills 18 Pakistanis, Thousands Protest

Thousands of Pakistanis protested on Saturday, January 14, a US airstrike that killed 18 Pakistanis, mostly civilians, in a village near the Afghan border. The unnamed officials said the attack was based on "false information". Pakistan's information mini

US Raid Kills 18 Pakistanis, Thousands Protest

Thousands of Pakistanis protested on Saturday, January 14, a US airstrike that killed 18 Pakistanis, mostly civilians, in a village near the Afghan border, amid confirmations that Al-Qaeda's second-in-command, the alleged target, was not at the site. An estimated 5,000 people gathered at a stadium near Khar, the main town in the Bajur tribal zone, close to the village of Damadola where Friday's attack happened, legislator Haroon Rasheed told Agence France-Presse (AFP).

He condemned the attack as a "slap on the face of the country's sovereignty" as the crowd chanted anti-US slogans, witnesses said. "It is shameful that innocent people of Pakistan are being killed by a foreign country with total impunity towards the state of Pakistan," he told the angry protesters. Eight women, five children and five men were killed in the raids on Damadola village, a Pakistani intelligence source told Reuters.

"False Information"

The unnamed officials said the attack - in which at least 18 people were killed - was based on "false information". The angry demonstrators set fire to the offices of Associated Development Construction, a non-governmental organization funded by the US Agency for International Development, an official at the aid group said. "The people have attacked our office in reaction to the deaths on Friday and put it on fire, it is badly damaged," site engineer Fazal Maibood told AFP.

Hundreds of tribal policemen had been deployed in Khar and other nearby towns to keep order, witnesses said. The protestors chanted slogans including, "A friend of the Americans is a traitor" and "We will launch jihad against the aggressor". A Pakistani intelligence official told Reuters four US aircraft had fired four missiles that destroyed three houses.

US sources in Washington knowledgeable about the strike told Reuters that the raid has been conducted by CIA-operated unmanned drones armed with missiles. However, the US Defense Department denied that the US military had carried out any attacks in the area. "There is no reason to believe the US military is conducting operations there," said Lieutenant Colonel Todd Vician.

Pakistan condemned the attack

Pakistan's information minister condemned the attack. Sheikh Rashid Ahmed told a news conference the US ambassador would be summoned to explain. The Pakistani government wanted "to assure the people we will not allow such incidents to reoccur", Mr Ahmed said.

Pakistan denied Saturday reports that Al-Qaeda's second-in-command Ayman Al-Zawahri, the alleged target, was at the site of the US strike, reported Al-Jazeera news channel. Two senior Pakistani officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject, told the Associated Press Pakistan's own investigation concluded that Zawahri was not in the village.

"Their information was wrong, and our investigations conclude that they acted on a false information," said a senior intelligence official who has direct knowledge of the investigations launched by Pakistan to look into the attacks. Legislator Rasheed asserted there were no foreigners among the victims. "Those killed were all innocent tribesmen, there were women and children among the dead," he said. "There was no Arab and no foreigners."

Residents and eyewitnesses concurred.

The target was a cluster of three houses owned by a jeweler named Abdul Ghafoor, whose nephew's children and female relatives were among the victims, resident Waheed Gul told AFP. "According to our information there was no foreigner among the 18 who were martyred in the attack," he added.

A Pakistani intelligence source told Reuters he had been told by US officials the strike was ordered based on information Zawahri and Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar had been invited to a dinner to celebrate `Eid Al-Adha, which ended Friday.

Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, Zawahri and Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar have eluded US capture ever since US-led forces toppled Afghanistan's Taliban government in 2001. Pakistani forces thought they might have surrounded Zawahri on another stretch of the border in March, 2004, but the quarry turned out to be a lesser Al-Qaeda figure.

Pakistani troops have caught or killed several top Al-Qaeda figures since 2001, most notably 9/11 mastermind and the network's then number three, Khalid Sheikh Mohammad, in 2003. Last month, authorities said Al-Qaeda member Abu Hamza Rabia was killed in a blast in the Waziristan region.

Residents said the blast came from a missile fired by an unidentified aircraft but Pakistani officials said explosives stored at a militant hideout detonated accidentally. Rabia, in his 30s, took over Al-Qaeda's number three spot after the capture of another top militant, Abu Faraj Farj Al-Liby, in Pakistan in May, according to US and Pakistani officials. In a video aired last Friday, Zawahri hailed "victory in Iraq" and said the United States was being defeated there.

Last Mod: 20 Eylül 2018, 18:16
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