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Thursday, June 25, 2009
By Mushtaq Yusufzai, Irfan Burki & Malik Mumtaz
PESHAWAR/WANA/MIRAMSHAH: There was no prominent militant commander among the 60-plus people killed in missile strikes by a US drone on funeral prayers in the violence-stricken South Waziristan on Tuesday.
People who helped in shifting the injured to hospital in Miramshah in North Waziristan told The News that the dead included 40 low-level militants and 35 local villagers.
They said majority of the people had left for their homes after attending the funeral prayers of the slain militant commander, Khwaz Wali Mehsud, and only relatives and close friends of the commander stayed there when the drone fired two missiles at them.
Commander Khwaz Wali was a close associate of Baitullah Mehsud and had died in a drone attack on Tuesday morning. Besides him, five other suspected militants were killed and seven others injured in the attack.
Later, when the villagers and the militants gathered for funeral prayers of the commander, two drones appeared and fired two missiles on the gathering, killing over 60 people on the spot.
Like other Mehsud people, family members of the slain militant commander had also fled their home and settled in the distant Dera Ismail Khan to evade losses in the military operation against Baitullah Mehsud in the region.
Among the 35 villagers who died in the drone attack on funeral, 10 were children aged five to 10 years and four local tribal elders. The sources at the ill-equipped Agency Headquarters Hospital in Miramshah said 58 people had been taken to the hospital, most of them in critical condition. Appeals were made through loudspeakers, asking the people to donate blood for the injured people at the hospital.
The Miramshah bazaar was immediately closed and shopkeepers and tribesmen in large numbers thronged the hospital for donating blood. The doctors said they could not manage the crowd that had come there for donating blood for the injured people.
According to the doctors, most of the injured brought to them were aged people. Tribal journalist, Nur Behram, who visited the Lattaka village, where the funeral prayer was attacked, told The News by telephone from Miramshah that gloom overwhelmed the deserted towns and its dwellers. He said majority of the people had already left their homes and villages due to the military operation and only elders remained there.
Behram said the villagers were critical of the Pakistan government for allowing the US to target their funeral prayers, where neither militant commanders were present nor the funeral was being offered at any training centre. He claimed majority of the people killed in the last drone attack were relatives of Commander Khwaz Wali.
Meanwhile, prominent Afghan Taliban commander, Maulvi Sangeen denied reports of his death in the drone attack in South Waziristan. He called The News from an undisclosed location to prove he was alive. “We have nothing to do with internal fighting in Pakistan. Our job is to fight Jihad against the occupation forces in Afghanistan,” said the Taliban commander.
He said neither he had travelled to South Waziristan to attend the funeral nor suffered any loss. Commander Sangeen said he will soon issue avideo statement to prove that he was safe. Maulvi Sangeen is affiliated with top Afghan Taliban Commander Sirajuddin Haqqani and is in-charge of Paktika province in Afghanistan.
Also, sources close to dreaded militant commander and master trainer of suicide bombers, Qari Hussain, denied his loss in the drone attack. Pleading anonymity, the sources said Qari Hussain was far away from the place of the attack.
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