FACTBOX - U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan
By Augustine Anthony | May 7, 2009
ISLAMABAD, May 7 (Reuters) - Pakistan hopes the United States will halt attacks on militants in Pakistan by pilotless drone aircraft, the Foreign Ministry said on Thursday.
President Asif Ali Zardari had discussed the drone strikes with U.S. President Barack Obama in Washington on Wednesday, a ministry spokesman said.
Civilian casualties caused by the missile-carrying drones in Pakistan have infuriated many Pakistanis and made it harder for the government to cooperate with the United States.
Here are some facts about the U.S. missile attacks, the controversy they have caused, and a list of some of the more prominent militants killed according to Pakistani officials.
WHY DOES THE UNITED STATES ATTACK?
Many al Qaeda members and Taliban fled to northwestern Pakistan's ungoverned ethnic Pashtun belt after U.S.-led soldiers ousted the Taliban in 2001. From the sanctuaries, the militants have orchestrated insurgencies in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The United States and Afghanistan have pressed Pakistan to eliminate the sanctuaries. Apparently frustrated by Pakistan's inability to do so, the United States is hitting the militants itself.
HOW MANY ATTACKS?
The United States has carried out about 40 drone air strikes since the begining of last year, most since September, killing more than 300 people, including many foreign militants, according to a tally of reports from Pakistani intelligence agents, district government officials and residents. There have been 14 attacks this year with five in April.
SOME OF THE PEOPLE REPORTED KILLED
Jan. 28, 2008 - A senior al Qaeda member, Abu Laith al-Libi, was killed in a strike in North Waziristan.
July 28 - An al Qaeda chemical and biological weapons expert, Abu Khabab al-Masri, was killed in South Waziristan.
Oct. 31 - A mid-level al Qaeda leader, Abu Akash, was killed in an attack in North Waziristan.
Nov. 19 - An Arab al Qaeda operative identified as Abdullah Azam al-Saudi was killed in Bannu district.
Nov. 22 - Rashid Rauf, a Briton with al Qaeda links and the suspected ringleader of a 2006 plot to blow up airliners over the Atlantic, was killed in an attack in North Waziristan. An Egyptian named as Abu Zubair al-Masri was also said to be among the dead in that same attack.
Jan. 1, 2009 - A U.S. drone killed three foreign fighters in South Waziristan, Pakistani agents said. A week later, a U.S. counterterrorism official said al Qaeda's operational chief, Usama al-Kini, and an aide had been killed in South Waziristan. He declined to say how or when they died.
WHERE ARE THE DRONES' LAUNCHING SITES?
A senior U.S. lawmaker, Senator Dianne Feinstein, told a U.S. Senate hearing in February that drones were being operated and flown from an air base inside Pakistan. Pakistan denied that saying there was no permission for the strikes, nor had there even been.
Pakistan supports the U.S.-led campaign against militancy but does not allow foreign military operations inside its territory. It says the drones violate its sovereignty and undermine efforts to deal with militancy by inflaming public anger and bolstering militant support.
The United States has shrugged off Pakistani protests. It says the attacks are needed to protect U.S. troops in Afghanistan and kill Taliban and al Qaeda militants who threaten the forces. (Writing by Augustine Anthony; Editing by Robert Birsel and Jerry Norton)