Obama continues covert airstrikes

In what seems to be his first approved act of war (though this does not meet the legal definition of it), Obama approved the continuation of the US covert airstrikes in Pakistan.  Yesterday, AP reports some 22 “militants were killed by what are likely US missiles launched by remote drones.

Pakistan: Toll from US missile strikes reaches 22

By ASIF SHAHZAD – 2 hours ago

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (AP) — The death toll from two suspected U.S. missile attacks on al-Qaida bases in northwest Pakistan has risen to 22, officials and residents said Saturday. Eight suspected foreign militants were among the dead.

A senior security official said Pakistani authorities were trying to determine the seniority of an Egyptian al-Qaida militant believed to have been killed.

Friday’s attacks were the first since the inauguration of President Barack Obama, and suggest that he will allow U.S. forces to continue targeting al-Qaida and Taliban operatives inside Pakistan’s lawless tribal belt.

Pakistani leaders complain that the stepped-up missile strikes — more than 30 since August — violate the country’s sovereignty and undermine the government’s own efforts to tackle rising Islamist violence at home.

However, U.S. officials have defended the tactic and say missiles fired from remotely piloted aircraft have killed a string of militant leaders behind attacks in Afghanistan and beyond.

Three intelligence officials told The Associated Press that funerals were held Saturday for nine Pakistanis killed Friday in Zharki, a village in the North Waziristan region.

The officials, citing reports from field agents and residents, said Taliban fighters had earlier removed the bodies of five suspected foreign militants who also died in the first missile strike Friday. Initial reports put the death toll from that attack at 10.

A senior security official in the capital, Islamabad, identified one of the slain men as a suspected al-Qaida operative called Mustafa al-Misri. He said it was unclear if the man was a significant figure.

The second strike hit a house in the South Waziristan region. Residents and security officials say eight people died in the village of Gangi Khel.

Resident Allah Noor Wazir said he attended funerals for the owner of the targeted house, Din Faraz, his three sons and a guest.

“I also heard that three bodies had been taken away by Taliban. They say they belong to foreigners,” Wazir told the AP by telephone.

All of the security officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.

The United States does not acknowledges firing the missiles, which are believed to be mostly fired from drones operated by the CIA and launched from neighboring Afghanistan.

Pakistan’s government has little control over the border region, which is considered a likely hiding place for al-Qaida chief Osama bin Laden and other terrorist leaders.

Obama is making the war in Afghanistan and the intertwined al-Qaida fight in Pakistan an immediate foreign policy priority. He has not commented on the missile strike policy, but struck a hawkish tone during his election campaign.

Also Saturday, Pakistan’s government welcomed Obama’s decision to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility.

A Foreign Ministry statement Saturday said Obama’s decision was a step toward “upholding the primacy of the rule of law” and would add a “much-needed moral dimension in dealing with terrorism.”

Pakistan helped the United States round up hundreds of militants in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, including several al-Qaida leaders still incarcerated at Guantanamo.

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