By Irfan Burki, Malik Mumtaz & Mushtaq Yusufzai
WANA/MIRAMSHAH/PESHAWAR: Twenty-four people, majority of them local tribal militants, were killed and some others were injured in three different missile attacks by the US spy planes in South Waziristan and North Waziristan on Sunday.
The first attack took place in Shaktoi area of South Waziristan where the drone fired two missiles and hit a double-cabin pickup carrying militants. Taliban sources said 14 militants were killed and two others were injured in the attack.
They belonged to the Hakimullah Mehsud-led Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). According to Taliban sources, these militants along with several other Mehsud insurgents had returned recently to their native South Waziristan and were planning to fight the Pakistani security forces there.
Many Mehsud Taliban fled their strongholds in South Waziristan and mostly shifted to the adjoining North Waziristan and Orakzai tribal regions when the government launched a military operation against Hakimullah Mehsud and his militants on October 17, 2009.
The sources among the militants said 14 insurgents died on the spot and two others sustained serious injuries. The two injured were shifted to a hospital in Mir Ali, the second biggest town of neighbouring North Waziristan. They were reported to have suffered multiple injuries.
It was the first attack by US spy planes in the Mehsud-inhabited areas of South Waziristan, particularly in Shaktoi after the January 15 missile strikes on a house after the US and Pakistani officials started making claims that Hakimullah Mehsud had been killed.
The second drone attack on Sunday occurred in Landikhel village of Srarogha Tehsil in South Waziristan. Tribal sources said four people, suspected to be militants belonging to the TTP, were killed and five others sustained injuries.
They said the drone fired two missiles on a house where some militants were having dinner. Moreover, six people were killed and four others injured in the third drone attack in the adjoining North Waziristan tribal region.
Official and tribal sources said the drone fired two missiles and struck a house in Tolkhel village, seven kilometres north of Miramshah, the headquarters of North Waziristan. Villagers in Tolkhel said four spy planes were seen flying over the village for quite sometime on Sunday.
They said rescue work was started after two hours as the spy planes were still flying over the area. There was no word on the identity of those slain in the drone strikes.