A suspected US drone strike killed five people on the mountainous Pakistan-Afghanistan border, government and militant sources said on Tuesday, days after a Canadian-American couple held hostage by the Taliban were freed from the same area. Taliban sources said at least five members of the Pakistan-based Haqqani militants, allied to the Taliban, were killed in Monday’s strike and eight were wounded.
On Friday, US drones were seen hovering near the area in northwestern Pakistan where American Caitlan Coleman, her Canadian husband, Joshua Boyle, and their three children, all born in captivity, were freed. Coleman and Boyle were held by the Haqqani network after being kidnapped while backpacking in Afghanistan in 2012. Their rescue marked a rare positive note in often-fraught US-Pakistan relations.
Baseer Khan Wazir, the most senior administrator in Kurram Agency that is part of Pakistan’s restive Federally Administered Tribal Areas, said four unmanned drones fired six missiles on a Taliban hideout close to the border on Monday but could not confirm on which side.
“There were some mud-built houses which were being used by the mujahideen (Afghan Taliban fighters),” said a member of the Afghan Taliban, asking not to be identified. “The drones fired six missiles and targeted two, three different compounds.” He said no prominent militants were in the area, but another Taliban source said two commanders were killed in the attack.
Witnesses said they heard the drones and then saw plumes of smoke. “There are always drones hovering over this border area but this was the first time four drones were noticed hovering at the same time,” said Kurram resident Gulab Sher. If confirmed to be inside Pakistan, the air strike would be the fourth drone attack on Pakistan’s side of the border since US President Donald Trump took office in January.