Two suspected U.S. drone strikes on Tuesday killed 11 people on the mountainous Pakistan-Afghanistan border, following a strike a day earlier that killed 20, government and militant sources said.
The attacks came days after a Canadian-American couple held hostage by the Taliban were freed from the area in Pakistan’s northwest, striking a rare positive note in the country’s often-fraught relations with the United States.
On Friday, U.S. drones were seen hovering near where American Caitlan Coleman, her Canadian husband, Joshua Boyle, and their three children, all born in captivity, were freed, after having been kidnapped by the Haqqani network while backpacking in Afghanistan in 2012.
“Four unmanned drones fired six missiles in Monday’s attack, and four more were dropped in two strikes on Tuesday,” Baseer Khan Wazir, the top administrative official in the Kurram Agency, part of Pakistan’s restive Federally Administered Tribal Areasm, told Reuters.
The drones fired missiles on Taliban hideouts, killing at least 31 people over two days, he added, with all three attacks taking place on the Afghan side.
“Twenty people were killed yesterday, mostly from the Afghan Taliban, and 11 more were killed in today’s attacks,” Wazir told Reuters.
Taliban sources said 18 members of the Pakistan-based Haqqani militants, allied to the Taliban, were killed in Monday’s strike and six in one of Tuesday’s attacks.
“There were some mud-built houses which were being used by the mujahideen (Afghan Taliban fighters),” said a member of the Afghan Taliban, who asked not to be identified.
No prominent militants were in the area when the drones targeted two or three different compounds, he added. Another Taliban source said two commanders were killed in Monday’s attack, however.
Witnesses said they heard the drones and saw plumes of smoke before seeing 20 makeshift coffins moved out of the area. Residents of the area said the strikes were no more than 300 meters (yards) from the Pakistan side of the border.
“There are always drones hovering over this border area, but this was the first time four drones were noticed at the same time,” said Kurram resident Gulab Sher.