Dozens of people were feared dead or injured in yet another missile strikes reportedly carried out by two US spy planes on Damadola village in Bajaur tribal region, bordering Afghanistan on Wednesday.
Unconfirmed reports put the death toll at 14 in the air attack but there were fears that the casualties might be much higher. Local tribesmen informed this correspondent by telephone late Wednesday night that two US spy planes, which were hovering over the town for the past two days, fired two missiles at Bar Kelay in Damadola town, destroying a house, an adjacent mosque and a Hujra (male guesthouse). One Obaidullah or Inayatullah, a schoolteacher, owned the house and Hujra.
The residents said they were not aware of the exact number of casualties as the buildings had completely collapsed and no efforts could be made to retrieve the bodies due to darkness and uncertain situation.
They said the villagers wanted to pull the bodies out of the rubble of the buildings but they could not come out of their homes and reach the spot as planes were still flying over the town. However, witnesses said that dozens of militants surrounded the area and started retrieving the bodies.
Maulvi Omar, who is militants’ spokesman, and belongs to Bajaur, called this correspondent and claimed that both the planes that attacked the village were American. He said that he along with several other militants, was close to Damadola and they were willing to enter the village after the attack to launch a rescue operation but could not do so as the same planes were still hovering over them.
Top military spokesman Maj Gen Athar Abbas told The News he was not aware of any such incident. He, however, said Pakistan had not carried out the attack. (AFP quoting a senior security official said at least a dozen militants including foreign fighters were killed in the suspected US missile strike on two houses.
“We have reports that the missile strike killed at least 12 militants including some foreigners,” the official said. The houses targeted belonged to Maulvi Taj Mohammad and Maulvi Hassan, the security official said, though it was unclear if they had been killed in the strikes. “Both were Al-Qaeda facilitators,” he said, adding there was an ammunition dump in one of the houses.)
Our Wana correspondent adds: Jet fighters flying from across the Pak-Afghan border violated Pakistan’s airspace in South Waziristan Agency Wednesday and dropped bombs in the area near the Durand Line.
Tribal sources said the jet fighters from the US-led Nato forces operating in Afghanistan intruded into Pakistan’s territory at Sra Khawra area near the border town of Angoor Adda and flew about three kilometres deep into South Waziristan Agency.
The planes reportedly dropped some bombs inside Pakistani territory but there were no details of losses. The same jet fighters also bombed targets on the Afghan side of the border. The government officials could not be reached to confirm the violation of Pakistan’s airspace by foreign planes.
It may be recalled here that 17 people, mainly women and children were killed in a similar attack carried out by US Predator on Damadola village on January 13, 2007 on suspicion of presence of al-Qaeda’s No2 Dr Ayman Al-Zawahiri in the village.
Later in October 2007, US planes bombarded a Madrassa in Cheengai village in Bajaur and killed 80 students and their teachers. Both, Pakistan and US, had alleged on that occasion that the madrassa was being used as training facility by al-Qaeda-linked militants.
The militants and government were close to sign a peace agreement when the bombing incident occurred. This time again the incident happened almost the same day when Baitullah Mahsud-led militants inked peace agreement with the government.