US drones continue to loom over Pakistan’s North Waziristan Agency, firing an alarming number of missiles into “suspected hideouts” in villages across the region. Two more struck today, killing at least 11 additional people.
Today drones fired four missiles at a compound in Zanini village, near Miramshah, killing at least five people, whom security officials described as “militants.” One of those slain in the strike was said to be foreign.
Just two hours later, the drones struck again, this time hitting at the Bichi village, not far from the site of yesterday’s strike in Pasalkot. The Bichi strike was said to have killed six “suspects.”
Yesterday’s Pasalkot attack killed 18 people, and there was some speculation that Pakistani Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud was among the slain. Today’s attack suggests officials may believe that he survived (though militants claim he was injured), and are trying to target sites at which he might be receiving treatment.
This appears to be a sum total of nine US drone strikes against sites in Pakistan so far this year: only half a month in. The United States launched 44 attacks in 2009, a dramatic increase from the number in 2008, but President Obama reportedly approved an escalation. On pace for perhaps hundreds of attacks in 2010, the escalation may draw uncomfortable attention to the controversial strikes, which killed upwards of 700 civilians in 2009.