Thousands of tribesmen took to the streets in South Waziristan on Saturday to protest against U.S. drone strikes two days after a senior Taliban leader and eight more people were killed in two attacks in the region.
A drone strike killed Mulla Nazir, chief of his own faction of the Pakistani Taliban in South Waziristan on Thursday.
Another commander of his group and three more associates were also killed with Nazir when American missiles hit their vehicle in Angor Adda area of South Waziristan, bordering Afghanistan. A second strike in North Waziristan on the same day had also killed four Taliban operatives.
Tribesmen shut all markets in Wana, headquarters of South Waziristan, and condemned the recent drone attack which killed Mulla Nazir and his militants, tribesmen told NewsPakistan on phone from Wana, by phone.
The protest was called by the main Ahmadzai Wazir tribe and the demonstrators chanted slogans ‘death to America’. They also criticized the government and claimed that some government officers are creating law and order problem in South Waziristan.
Slain Taliban commander also belonged to Wazir tribe, which had struck a peace deal with Pakistani forces in 2007. Bahawal Khan alias Salahuddin Turabi was appointed new commander to lead Nazir’s group of the Taliban.
Demonstrators also demanded of the Pakistani government to take tough stand against the U.S. drone strikes in Waziristan, correspondents said. Tribesmen said that American spy aircraft are killing innocent civilians.
A large number of people traveled from Wana to Azam Warsak, some eight kilometers from Wana, in hundreds of vehicles and staged biggest demonstration there. They were holding black flags as a sign of protest against the U.S.
Tribal elders and religious scholars paid tributes to Mulla Nazir and said he had established peace in areas under his influence. “The Americans did a cruel act to kill Mulla Nazir,” the speaker Malik, Shereen Jan and Malik Dost Muhammad said.
Pakistan publicly opposes drone strikes and also condemned these attacks on Friday when the Foreign Ministry’s spokesman was asked about the recent strikes.
“We strongly condemn these attacks. We find them totally unacceptable, unproductive and illegal. They are a violation of our territorial integrity,” the Foreign Ministry spokesman, Moazzam Khan said.
He said that the issue has been a consistent topic of discussions between the two sides, adding that Pakistan has taken up this issue with the US authorities at every level. “They (Americans) also understand our concerns, and we are quite hopeful that we will be able to resolve this issue bilaterally”.
Despite Pakistan’s condemnation, the U.S. is in no mood to stop the CIA-drone campaign in Pakistan as it views the attacks as an effective tool to eliminate Taliban and al-Qaeda operatives.
Washington had described the death of Mulla Nazir as a major development, which the US had accused of sending his fighters across the border into Afghanistan for attacks on foreign and Afghan forces.