Attacks counter-productive, Pakistan tells America

Nirupama Subramanian

Concern over civilian deaths

Militants targeted, says U.S. media

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan on Saturday said it had conveyed its concerns over two missile attacks into its territory to the United States.

The death toll from the two U.S. aerial attacks in Pakistan’s tribal areas may be as high as 21, and while reports in the U.S. media said militants, including Al-Qaeda members, were among the dead, the Pakistan Foreign Ministry said it was concerned about the civilian casualties.

The attacks, which came within a few hours of each other on Friday in the North and South Waziristan tribal areas, were seen as an early warning by the Obama administration that it intends to take a tough line with Pakistan on cleaning up the tribal regions bordering Afghanistan of Al-Qaeda and their Taliban allies.

But in a statement, the Foreign Ministry said the attacks were “counter-productive and should be discontinued”.

“With the advent of the new U.S. Administration it is Pakistan’s sincere hope that the United States will review its policy and adopt a more holistic and integrated approach towards dealing with the issue of terrorism and extremism,” the government said, adding that U.S. and NATO must adopt a “more effective” approach towards countering extremism and terrorism.

The Predator strikes began during the Bush administration, their frequency rising after August 2008.

Since then, there have been more than 30 attacks inside Pakistan. The government was always quick to lodge stern protests against the attacks that it described as a “violation” of its air space, sovereignty and territorial integrity.

However, these expressions of outrage have not succeeded in stopping the attacks.

The government had promised that the Obama administration would not carry out these attacks, but that hope has been belied.

The first of Friday’s attacks targeted a reported Al-Qaeda hide-out in North Waziristan and the second in South Waziristan followed a few hours later.

Unconfirmed television reports said U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan Anne Patterson met President Zardari on Saturday, and that the two discussed the drone attacks.

But the President’s spokesman was unavailable for comment.

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