Wednesday, 20 September 2017
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militaryoperations

By Caroline Cameron, Great North News Services

PAKISTANI officials say a US drone strike has killed four suspected militants in the country's northwest near the Afghan border, the first such attack in two months.

The missiles hit a compound near Miran Shah, the main town in the North Waziristan tribal region. Residents reported seeing the building on fire. US officials confirmed the attack.

The suspected US drone strike was the first since NATO helicopters operating out of Afghanistan mistakenly killed 24 Pakistani soldiers along the border last November.

That attack worsened already strained U.S.-Pakistan relations and prompted Pakistan to block supply routes for NATO troops in Afghanistan.

American officials have denied that the recent drop-off in drone strikes was deliberate.

But in December, a prominent US newspaper said the Central Intelligence Agency had suspended drone strikes targeting low-ranking militants in Pakistan for six weeks in an effort to mend badly frayed relations with the South Asian nation.

The Los Angeles Times quoted unnamed US officials as saying the CIA's "undeclared halt" in attacks was aimed at reversing a "sharp erosion of trust" between the two countries, following a series of deadly incidents, including the NATO attack in November.

A joint US.-NATO-Afghan investigation concluded that a series of errors - including botched communications - on both the NATO and Pakistani sides led to November's incident. Pakistan - which did not participate in the review - rejected the findings.

The killing of 24 Pakistani soldiers prompted Pakistan to block the Khyber and Chaman routes to Afghanistan for NATO.

The closures have choked major supply lines for the 130,000-strong US-led force in Afghanistan. It is unclear, if and when, Pakistan will reopen those routes, and NATO officials say they are transporting supplies through other countries and relying on stockpiles in Afghanistan to sustain operations.

Drone strikes in Pakistan are credited with killing dozens of al-Qaida operatives and hundreds of low-ranking fighters since 2004. But, at the same time, they have infuriated many Pakistanis and complicated relations between Washington and Islamabad.

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