Pakistan demands Obama administration halt drone attacks (Lead)

January 24th, 2009 - 11:28 pm ICT by IANS  

TalibanIslamabad, Jan 24 (DPA) Pakistan on Saturday expressed grave concern over the two US drone attacks that killed 22 people a day ago in its restive tribal region bordering Afghanistan.”With the advent of the new US administration, it is Pakistan’s sincere hope that the United States will review its policy and adopt a more holistic and integrated approach towards dealing with the issue of terrorism and extremism,” a spokesman for Pakistan’s foreign ministry said.

The statement came as the death toll in overnight attacks rose to 22 when local residents pulled four more bodies from the rubble and an injured person succumbed to his injuries at a local hospital.

Three Hellfire missiles on Friday evening demolished the house of a local, Khalil Dawar, outside the town of Mir Ali in North Waziristan tribal district, a known sanctuary for Taliban and Al Qaeda fighters launching cross-border attacks on international forces in Afghanistan.

The intelligence official initially said nine people, including four Al Qaeda linked militants of Arab origin, were killed in the strike.

“Taliban and their sympathizers retrieved four more bodies from the rubble on early Saturday and one of the seven injured admitted at the hospital died,” he said.

The owner of the house, Dawar, his two sons, brother and nephew were also among the dead.

Hours later, a suspected US drone targeted another house in the neighbouring South Waziristan district Friday, killing eight people.

The officials said two Al Qaeda members were among those killed. But local residents claimed the attack targeted a family that had no links with the rebels.

“The drone had probably missed the target and killed only innocent people. Four children also lost their lives in the attack,” the English-language The News cited one local official as saying.

The attacks were the first since US President Barack Obama took office Tuesday and were taken as a sign that he has no intention of halting the airstrikes begun under the Bush administration.

Islamabad has repeatedly protested to US over the drone attacks, saying they violate its sovereignty, and had expressed hope the situation might change under Obama.

“We maintain that these attacks are counterproductive and should be discontinued,” said a Pakistani spokesman.

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