South Asia News
Pakistan outraged over civilian deaths in US drone strike
Mar 18, 2011, 13:15 GMT
Islamabad - Pakistan's leadership on Friday strongly condemned a US drone strike in the country's tribal region that killed 44 people.
The Foreign Office summoned US ambassador Cameron Munter to explain the missile strikes that they said killed civilians, causing a huge outcry in the Islamic country where anti-Americanism is already running high.
A US unmanned aircraft fired four missiles at dozens of tribesmen, who were meeting to settle a dispute over hills containing reserves of chromite, in the Datta Khel area of North Waziristan district on Thursday. At least 47 people were wounded.
Officials initially said the target was a Taliban meeting. But as accurate information about the strike trickled in from the remote village hours later, the country's civilian and military leadership was outraged.
In unusually strong language late Thursday, military chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani condemned the attack as 'unjustified and intolerable under any circumstances.'
'It is highly regrettable that a jirga (tribal gathering) of peaceful citizens including elders of the area was carelessly and callously targeted with complete disregard to human life,' Kayani said in a statement.
'In complete violation of human rights, such acts of violence take us away from our objective of eliminating terrorism.'
Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said the attacks 'will only strengthen the radical and extremist elements' and negatively impact the efforts to separate the militants from the peaceful and patriotic tribesmen in the areas.
Tehmina Janjua of the Foreign Office said the ambassador was told Friday that if the United States does not apologize for the killing of civilians, then Pakistan would not participate in a trilateral meeting between Pakistan, Afghanistan and US in Brussels on March 26.
A witness to the attack was quoted by Urdu-language daily Mashraq as saying that the tribal meeting was taking place in an open ground when the drones struck. 'After the attack, the whole place was littered with dead bodies,' he said.
North Waziristan, a hotbed of Taliban and al-Qaeda militants, has been the focus of most of the US drone strikes carried out this year.
Despite official claims that the attacks have eliminated dozens of Islamist insurgents, the campaign is unpopular in Pakistan.
The representatives of a grand jirga in Waziristan on Friday announced a jihad (holy war) against the US. The jirga comprises elders from all the tribes in the mountainous region.
'We have asked our people to carry out suicide attacks on US,' Malik Jalaluddin told reporters in Peshawar, the capital of the north-western province of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.
'We will definitely take revenge for this carnage. We are the people who do not forgive their enemy even after one hundred years. We will definitely take revenge for the blood of our brothers,' he said.
The attack came as Islamist and conservative political parties held rallies to protest the release of a US citizen previously charged with murder for shooting two people in Lahore in January.
Raymond Davis, 36, was acquitted Wednesday when the victims' families pardoned him after receiving 2.35 million dollars in blood money. Critics have said the authorities put pressure on the families to accept the money.
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