US drone kills 21 militants in Afghanistan

World | 8 Mar 2018 4:34 pm

Two missiles fired from a U.S. drone hit a militant facility in neighboring Afghanistan, killing 21 insurgents, including the son of the head of the Pakistani Taliban, two Pakistani intelligence officials and local Taliban commanders said on Thursday.

The strike, which according to the officials took place on Wednesday, targeted a compound frequented by Mullah Fazlullah, the leader of the Pakistani Taliban who is believed to be hiding in Afghanistan.

The intelligence officials said that Fazlullah was apparently not there, but his son was killed in the strike in Afghanistan’s Kunar province, miles away from Pakistani border.

Three Pakistani Taliban commanders also confirmed the strike and militant casualties. Pakistani officials and the Taliban commanders spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to speak to the media.

The United States made no comment on the strike. There was also no immediate comment from NATO, Afghan authorities or the Pakistani government.

It was unclear whether the bodies of those killed in Wednesday’s drone strike would be brought to Pakistan for burial.

Islamabad has for years has asked Washington and Kabul to take action against Fazlullah and other Pakistani Taliban, who are believed to be hiding in neighboring Afghanistan and who cross the porous Afghan-Pakistan border to launch attacks inside Pakistan.

Kabul, for its part, has long complained that Islamabad is not taking enough action against militants who use Pakistani soil to launch attacks against U.S., NATO and Afghan forces in Afghanistan.

In recent months, President Donald Trump’s cranked up pressure on Pakistan to act against militants by suspending key security assistance to the country. Pakistan denies providing sanctuary to militants and says it has carried out several military operations in the country’s tribal regions and elsewhere to kill or arrest militants.

Fazlullah’s is the son-in-law of a Sufi Mohammad, a radical anti-U.S. cleric who was recently freed by Pakistan. The cleric, imprisoned in Pakistan in 2009, was released in January from a prison in the northwestern city of Peshawar, following a court order for his release on health grounds earlier that month. -AP

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