US drones 'hit militants in Pakistan's North Waziristan'

Pakistani tribesmen clear rubble and belongings from their destroyed houses following Pakistan military airstrikes against suspected Taliban hideouts in Miranshah in North Waziristan on 24 May 2014. Image copyright AFP
Image caption Pakistan has carried out intensive airstrikes in the North Waziristan region in recent weeks

The US has resumed its drones programme in Pakistan, with two strikes on militant strongholds in the North Waziristan tribal region overnight.

Reports say at least 16 suspected militants were killed in the strikes.

They come days after a militant attack on Karachi airport - 39 people were killed, including the 10 attackers.

Washington agreed to suspend its drones programme in December to allow Islamabad to pursue peace talks with the Pakistani Taliban (TTP).

But pressure has been mounting on the Pakistani authorities to launch a ground offensive in North Waziristan amid a breakdown in peace talks.

Double hit

The two drone strikes took place within hours of each other, striking a compound in a village near Miranshah, the main town in North Waziristan.

The first attack, carried out late on Wednesday night, is said to have killed four ethnic Uzbek militants and two Punjabi Taliban.

The second attack on Thursday morning targeted another 10 suspected militants.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Thousands of people have fled the region amid fears of a widescale military offensive against the militants

On Wednesday, Uzbek militants of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) claimed to have carried out the attack on the airport, saying it was in retaliation for Pakistani military air strikes last month.

The group, which is highly-trained and has bases in North Waziristan, has previously carried out large-scale co-ordinated attacks with al-Qaeda and Taliban militants in Pakistan.

Washington uses unmanned drones to carry out strikes on Taliban and al-Qaeda targets in Pakistan's border region with Afghanistan.

However, US strikes have not taken place since 25 December 2013 in response to calls by Pakistan to halt strikes and enable peace negotiations.

Pakistan carried out air strikes this week as well, saying its forces had killed at least 15 militants in the north-west Khyber region on Tuesday.

Who are the Pakistani Taliban?

•With its roots in the Afghan Taliban, the Pakistani Tehreek-e-Taliban movement came to the fore in 2007 by unleashing a wave of violence

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Former TTP leader Hakimullah Mehsud died in a drone strike

•Its leaders have traditionally been based in Pakistan's tribal areas but it is really a loose affiliation of militant groups, some based in areas like Punjab and even Karachi

•The various Taliban groups have different attitudes to talks with the government - some analysts say this has led to divisions in the movement

•Collectively they are responsible for the deaths of thousands of Pakistanis and have also co-ordinated assaults on numerous security targets

•Two former TTP leaders, Baitullah Mehsud and Hakimullah Mehsud, as well as many senior commanders have been killed in US drone strikes

•It is unclear if current leader Maulana Fazlullah, who comes from outside the tribal belt, is even in Pakistan, but he has a reputation for ruthlessness

Who are the Taliban?

Pakistan's 'fanatical' Uzbek militants

More on this story