ISLAMABAD, Pakistan – At least six people have been killed in a US drone strike in the North Waziristan tribal area, where a Pakistani military operation against Taliban fighters is ongoing, intelligence sources tell Al Jazeera.
Two missiles were fired on Thursday on a compound and a vehicle in the village of Madakhel in the Dattakhel area of the province, intelligence sources said.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity, as they were not authorised to speak to the media. Al Jazeera cannot independently verify the identity of those killed, as access to the area is restricted.
Al Jazeera’s coverage of civilian and military drone use
Thursday’s incident is the fourth US strike in Pakistan since a Pakistani military operation against the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and its allies in North Waziristan began last month.
The previous three strikes included twin attacks on June 12, which killed at least 10 people in Miranshah, and another strike on Miranshah on June 18, which killed at least four people.
In a closed-door briefing on July 1, Pervez Rashid, the Pakistani information minister, said that US drone strikes during the ongoing Pakistani military operation were “counterproductive”.
Major-General Asim Bajwa, chief of the army’s PR wing, said that drones “don’t help us”.
“This is an operation which is Pakistan’s own operation,” he said. “We have conceived it. This is our own capability […] if there is any kind of support that we’ve asked for, it’s [from] Afghans across the border or ISAF.
“Drones are not at all, I repeat not at all, part of our operational plan.”
Separately, Tasneem Aslam, spokesperson for Pakistan’s Foreign Office, said: “We have condemned these attacks. We have made it clear that these attacks are unacceptable, they violate Pakistan’s sovereignty. … we have said that drone strikes would complicate our efforts to eliminate terrorists.”
The June 12 strikes broke a six-month hiatus in the US drone campaign in Pakistan – the longest such break since US President Barack Obama took office in 2009.
‘Safe haven for terrorists’
Pakistan’s military operation – dubbed Zarb-e-Azb – is ongoing in North Waziristan, with the military saying that it has killed more than 400 people in air strikes and a ground offensive.
Pakistan’s military terms all of those killed “terrorists,” but it is impossible to verify that claim, due to restrictions on reporting.
On Wednesday, Major-General Zafarullah Khan, the military’s top ranking officer in North Waziristan, said that “80 percent of Miranshah and the adjoining area” had been cleared of fighters.
“North Waziristan had transformed into a hub and safe haven for terrorists of all colours and creeds,” he said during a media trip to Miranshah.
The operation has also generated an exodus of internally displaced people from the remote, underdeveloped tribal area.
According to government figures, more than 876,000 people have been displaced by the ongoing operation, after fleeing the Pakistani military’s aerial bombing campaign and Taliban reprisal attacks.
Al Jazeera’s Hameedullah Khan contributed reporting from Islamabad.
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