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US Drone Kills Two on Motorbike in Pakistan | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Predator drone (AP Photo/ Kirsty Wigglesworth)

Peshawar, (Pakistan)- A US drone has killed two men riding a motorbike in Pakistan’s northwest tribal region, officials said, the first such attack in the country under the administration of new American President Donald Trump.

The attack occurred in the Sara Khwa area of Kurram, one of seven so-called tribal districts that lie along the border with Afghanistan, where Pakistan has been battling a homegrown insurgency for more than a decade and a half.

Requesting anonymity, a local government official described the two men who were killed as “militants” but said their identity could not immediately be confirmed as bodies were beyond recognition.

A second official said: “The drone came from Afghanistan and returned after firing two missiles on the motorbike.”

A senior Afghan Taliban commander told Agence France Presse on condition of anonymity that one of those killed in the attack was Qari Abdullah, a guard in the Haqqani network while the second, Saqib Ullah, was a commander of the group.

Haqqani is separate from but allied with the Taliban.

In a related development, Pakistan announced plans to bring its militancy-wracked tribal areas into the mainstream political fold by ending a de facto system of direct rule that critics said suppressed development and fueled extremism.

Situated on the country’s northwest border with Afghanistan, the region became a central arena in the global war on terror in the aftermath of 9/11, where Taliban and Al-Qaeda fighters operated with impunity.

Its inhabitants have long complained its development has been neglected by Islamabad, which also appoints administrators with sweeping powers including the prerogative to collectively punish entire clans for the crime of an individual.

“The cabinet has in principle approved the recommendations of the FATA (Federally Administered Tribal Areas) Reforms Committee,” Sartaj Aziz, head of a government reforms committee and a senior aide to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif told reporters in Islamabad.

He added the region would be fully merged into the neighboring Khyber Pakhtunkwa province within a period of five years, but some key reforms such as an ending collective punishment and extending the rule of Pakistani courts would be completed within months.

The proposals will now be forwarded to parliament which will be asked to pass a constitutional amendment to implement them.

The seven tribal districts Bajaur, Khyber, Kurram, Mohmand, North Waziristan, Orakzai and South Waziristan, are home to some eight million residents, mainly ethnic Pashtuns.