PESHAWAR, Pakistan — Pakistan on Thursday condemned two air strikes that reportedly killed 16 suspected militants and appeared to mark an end to a nearly six-month pause in the CIA’s covert drone operations in the country’s lawless tribal areas.
After six militants were reported killed in the first strike in the North Waziristan tribal region late Wednesday, drones fired six missiles at a residential compound in the same area Thursday morning and killed 10 others, according to Pakistani security sources, who discussed the operation on condition of anonymity.
“These strikes are a violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement. “Additionally, these strikes have a negative impact on the government’s efforts to bring peace and stability in Pakistan and the region.”
Before the twin strikes, the last known drone attack in the tribal areas occurred on Christmas. The CIA has decreased use of the unmanned aircraft due to mounting Pakistani opposition and new restrictions on their use announced by the Obama administration.
Pakistan had sought an end to the drone strikes as Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif began pursuing peace talks with insurgents based in the tribal belt late last year. Those efforts suffered a possibly fatal setback this week when militants stormed the airport in the Pakistani city of Karachi, leaving 36 people dead including the 10 attackers.
Former U.S. military officials had indicated that American forces would be likely to step up operations against Taliban insurgents and their allies in Pakistan’s tribal belt after American Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who was held captive by the Taliban in North Waziristan, was freed nearly two weeks ago.
Four of the six militants killed in Wednesday night’s drone strike in the Darga Mandi area were reportedly from Uzbekistan, where an Islamist movement has claimed that it participated in the Karachi attack. The nationalities of those killed in the Thursday attack were not immediately known.