In one of the few occasions in which officials from the Pakistani national government have ever admitted to killing civilians in their attacks along the tribal areas, an unnamed official today conceded that this weekend’s Khyber strike had killed up to 71 civilians.
On Sunday when it happened, Pakistani military officials angrily denied local reports of civilian deaths and claimed that everyone killed was a “militant,” part of a group massing to attack a military checkpoint.
Local officials told a different story, however. The Pakistani jets bombed the home of a Pakistani soldier, killing five members of his extended family and leveling the structure. The “massing” of people were locals trying to rescue anyone still trapped in the rubble, and the bulk of the deaths came when the jets returned and bombed the site again.
The latest from the national government seems to confirm what the locals were saying all along, and as the locals insist the village’s families are disproportionately pro-government and many have soldiers in the military, the reason for the attack is perplexing, to say the least. Officials say they have paid out some $125,000 in “compensation” for the killings.
As this story of civilian deaths comes to an unhappy ending, another looms on the horizon. The missile attack against Miramshah late last night, which officials lauded as killing “four suspected militants,” is reported by locals to have actually killed 13 people, all civilians, including two children.