Missiles from US drones slammed into militant hideouts overnight in northwestern Pakistan, killing 13 suspected insurgents and marking the resumption of the CIA-led program after a nearly six-month break, officials said today. The two separate drone strikes sparked swift condemnation by the Pakistani government. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement that the strikes are a violation of Pakistani sovereignty and territorial integrity. In the first strike, late yesterday, a suspected American drone fired two missiles at a militant hideout in the North Waziristan tribal area near the Afghan border, killing three militants. Then, early today a suspected US missile strike targeted another militant compound in North Waziristan, killing at least 10 people.
There was no immediate information on the identities of those killed in the strikes but the two intelligence officials who gave information about the strike said the area is dominated by the Haqqani network, and most of those killed are believed to have belonged to the organization. Due to stricter rules on the use of drones, diplomatic sensitivities, and the changing nature of the al-Qaeda threat, the number of American drone strikes had dwindled. These were the first since Christmas, and even before that, the number of strikes every year had been steadily dropping. (Meanwhile, the US has rejected Iraq's plea for airstrikes.)