According to Xinhua, which cites local Pakistani news channels, US drones struck yesterday in Pakistan’s Arakzai tribal agency, killing 13 “militants,” including six “foreigners”:
At least 13 people were killed when a U.S. drone launched three missile strikes in Orakzai region of Pakistan’s northwest tribal belt on Wednesday, local media reported.
According to the report by local TV channel Geo, the attack was launched in wee hours in the morning when a U.S. drone fired three missiles at a militants’hideout in Darand Shekhan area of upper Orakzai agency, a militancy-hit tribal area where Pakistan army has been battling local and foreign Taliban militants for the past four months.
The report said that six foreigners were also among the killed militants and the dead bodies have been shifted to other areas of Orakzai after the drone attack.
This was picked up by some small news outlets, such as Khyber News. But none of the major Pakistani news outlets, or the wire services, have reported on an Arakzai strike. Local Pakistani officials, who are often quick to claim drone strikes have taken place (and who have been accurate in the past on said strikes), denied that drones struck in Arakzai.
Pakistani news outlets instead have said that Pakistani Air Force jets targeted Taliban hideouts in Arakzai. Here is a report from Daily Times:
At least 20 terrorists were killed as fighter jets pounded Taliban hideouts in Orakzai Agency on Wednesday, military sources said. The air strikes came a day after terrorists attacked a security checkpost in Jogi Heights in Mamozai region of Kurram Agency in which eight soldiers were killed. “Jets have targeted the hideouts of Taliban commander Mullah Toofan and commander Moheyuddin, ground intelligence reported at least 20 Taliban were killed in the blitz,” military sources told Daily Times. Sources added that four compounds of the Taliban had been hit in the air strike. They added that some reports suggested that commander Moheyuddin could have been killed in the bombing. However, there was no independent confirmation of the commander’s death. Considering the strategic location of the region, terrorists have been putting up stiff resistance to the military operation. This has also given the Taliban upper hand since they have cut off road links to Kurram Agency. Sources did not say how effective the operation was in weakening the terrorists so that ground troops could move in.
It certainly is possible that US drones conducted an attack in Arakzai yesterday and the major media outlets missed it, but it is unlikely. Of the 305 strikes that have taken place since 2004, only one hit a target in Arakzai, and just 11 others hit targets outside of North and South Waziristan. A strike in Arakzai would be hard for the media to miss.
Are you a dedicated reader of FDD's Long War Journal? Has our research benefitted you or your team over the years? Support our independent reporting and analysis today by considering a one-time or monthly donation. Thanks for reading! You can make a tax-deductible donation here.