US using Pakistan airbase for drone attacks on Pakistanis: report

February 18th, 2009 - 8:10 pm ICT by IANS  

London, Feb 18 (IANS) Pakistan is allowing the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to secretly use an airbase in southern Pakistan to launch attacks on its own militants, the Times reported Wednesday.
A Times investigation found that the CIA has been using the airfield in Shamsi, around 50 km from the Afghan border, for at least year - despite claims by Pakistan that its air bases are not used for drone attacks.

The newspaper said the location of the airstrip would put Predator drones, which have a range of more than 3,200 km and can fly for 29 hours, within reach of militants in Baluchistan, southern Afghanistan and in Pakistan’s northern tribal areas.

It quoted a US Embassy spokesman in Pakistan as denying there were any American bases in Pakistan while saying he could not comment on CIA operations.

The CIA and the Pentagon also declined to comment, but a senior Western source familiar with US operations in Pakistan and Afghanistan told The Times that the CIA “runs Predator flights routinely” from Shamsi.

American drone attacks in Pakistan is a politically sensitive issue, and marred relations between the two countries in the closing months of the George W. Bush presidency.

However, President Barack Obama too has made it clear that he will continue the strikes while reviewing overall US strategy in the region.

There have been four such attacks since Obama took office, with the latest killing 31 people in the tribal agency of Kurram.

Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi Sunday categorically denied that Pakistani bases were used for US drone attacks, the newspaper said.

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