A US drone strike in northwest Pakistan’s tribal region killed at least 12 persons on Thursday.
Drone aircraft fired two missiles on a religious seminary and a house, said to be a Taleban training camp, in South Waziristan tribal region near the Afghan border.
The Pakistani Taleban have denied their leader Hakimullah Mehsud was killed in the US missile attack.
A Taleban spokesman said Mehsud had been in the area but left before the drone attack. He is on a list of key militant targets.
The missiles were fired at a time when the US special envoy for Pakistan and Afghanistan Richard Holbrooke is visiting Pakistan, and organising the war against the Taleban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan, Pakistan and the Yemen.
The Pakistani Foreign Minister told the US envoy (who organised the war against Yugoslavia for President Clinton) that any expansion of drone strikes would be strongly opposed. He was speaking for the record.
The US regularly fires missiles on the suspected hideouts of militants in Waziristan region, inside Pakistan, which the US considers as the stronghold of the militants.
Holbrooke meanwhile told the Pakistani government that the US will not leave Pakistan on its own to fight the Taleban. His words were taken to mean that US intervention inside Pakistan is to be stepped up.
At the joint press conference the Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi was told that the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will soon visit Pakistan to participate in strategic level talks to step up the war.
He responded: ‘Despite the partnership that we enjoy, Pakistan feels that it will undermine our relationship if there is an expansion of drones and if there are military operations on the ground.’
However, both are being stepped up. Pakistani government opposition is purely verbal.
Holbrooke sought to accommodate Pakistani objections, saying: ‘We believe relations between the United States and Pakistan are better today than they were a year ago. On the other hand, there are some obvious and very public issues between the two countries. That is natural. Friends can disagree.’
However, hundreds of people have been killed in drone attacks since mid-2008.
The target of the latest attack, Hakimullah Mehsud, last week appeared in a video alongside a Jordanian man alleged to have killed seven CIA agents in Afghanistan after convincing them that he had vital intelligence to pass on to them.
Hakmullah has led the Pakistani Taleban since Baitullah Mehsud’s death last summer, also after a US missile strike.
Since the showing of that video the United States has intensified drone attacks in the Afghan border region. There have been seven strikes there this month so far.
Meanwhile, the zone of operations is being expanded on a daily basis.
The US and the UK, the former colonial power, are now intervening in the Yemen to fight Al-Qaeda.
A group of Muslim leaders have said Yemenis have a religious duty to resist foreign military intervention in the country.
They said that: ‘In the event of any foreign party insisting on hostilities against, an assault on, or military or security intervention in Yemen, then Islam requires all its followers to pursue jihad.’
The statement was signed by 150 clerics on Thursday.
On Wednesday, Carl Levin, the chairman of the US senate armed services committee, said that Washington should use drone attacks, air raids or covert operations against al-Qaeda fighters in the country.
‘Most options ought to be on the table’, short of invasion by US forces, the Democrat senator said. It is believed that he is pressing for the UK to take the leading military role in the Yemen.
The British trade unions must demand that all UK forces are recalled from Afghanistan, Pakistan and the Yemen. They must be prepared to take strike action to achieve it.