War of words continues between Pakistan and US over drone strike in Khurram

Arif Qureshi 

Islamabad: After United States Islamabad embassy spokesman Rick Sinelsine claim that the 24 drone strike was not occurred in an Afghan refugee camp in Kurram Agency, the war of words opened between Pakistan and United States over the attack in which two Haqqani Network militants were killed.

Pakistan Army media wing Inter service spokes man through a statement explained that the drone targeted a terrorist hiding in an Afghan refugee complex in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata). The Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) statement said: “The drone strike on Jan 24 in Speen Tal, Hangu district, was on an individual target who had morphed into Afghan refugees and not [on] any organised terrorists sanctuary, which have been eliminated.”

The statement added that there are 54 Afghan refugee camps and complexes in Pakistan, 43 of which are in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa “with overlap in Fata”. One of the complexes in Hangu were targeted by the drone strike on Jan 24. “This validates Pakistan’s stance that left over terrorists easily morph into Afghan refugees camps/complexes,” the ISPR statement said, referring to the integration of militants into local populations, particularly in the tribal areas. “Thus their [Afghan refugees’] early and dignified return to Afghanistan is essential. Pakistan’s brotherly hospitality to peaceful Afghan refugees must not be exploited by the terrorists,” the statement added.

Earlier today, US Embassy Spokesperson Rick Sinelsine told Dawn News that Pakistan’s claim that United States forces struck an Afghan refugee camp in Kurram Agency on Wednesday is false. The Rick Sinelsine was responding the claim of Pakistan foreign office statement in which FO said that the drone attack was happened in one of the afghan refugee camp in Khurram agency. The US Embassy Spokesperson, however, did not confirm or deny whether the US army had carried out a drone attack in the region.

On Wednesday, Pakistan had condemned an alleged US drone strike deep inside its territory, saying: “Pakistan condemns a drone strike in Khurram Agency carried out by the Resolute Support Mission (RSM) this [Wednesday] morning, which targeted an Afghan refugee camp.” Islamabad had also warned Washington that such ‘unilateral’ steps would be detrimental to cooperation between the two countries in fight against terrorism.

In another development the United Nations refugee agency spokesperson told AFP that there are no refugee camps in the tribal areas, and no sign of a camp can be seen in pictures from the site. The Foreign Office (FO) on Thursday, responding to the US Embassy spokesperson’s remarks, said that Pakistan stands by its initial statement. Yesterday, Haqqani Network Commander Ehsan alias Khawari and two of his companions were allegedly killed during a US drone strike. Area residents had told Dawn that an unmanned plane fired missiles on a mud house in Speen Tal near the garrison town of Thall, killing two men namely Ihsanullah and Nasir Mehmood. While locals said this was the third drone strike in Speen Tal in recent months, reported by Dawn News.

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