BBC Urdu Service reporter Rifatullah Orakzai has an article on the BBC website about his recent trip1 to Damadola in Bajaur district — the target of last week’s missile strikes by NATO.
We soon learned that after the missile strike, the militants had cordoned off all roads to the house that was hit, and allowed no one close to the site until the premises had been “cleared”.
So there is no way of knowing who was killed in the attack, and whether any foreign al-Qaeda militants were among the dead.
Taleban militants appear to be in complete control of two Bajaur sub-dsitricts, Mamund and Salarzai, and people seem to be reluctant to express their opinions freely.
There were hundreds of people as well as armed militants at the scene of the missile strike. They were unanimous in their condemnation of Nato troops for carrying out the attack.
The article notes that this is the third time in two years that Damadola has been targetted by US planes. A few weeks ago, I read a profile of the Tehrik-e-Taliban2 by Hasan Abbas in the CTC Sentinel, published by the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point. In his profile of Baitullah Mehsud, Abbas points out that:
He came to prominence in February 2005 when he signed a deal with the Pakistani government that it termed as his surrender, although he interpreted it as a peace deal in the interests of the tribal regions as well as Pakistan.18 As part of the deal, he had pledged not to provide any assistance to al- Qa`ida and other militants and not to launch operations against government forces. The deal was short lived, and since 2006 he has virtually established an independent zone in parts of South Waziristan Agency which is widely believed to be a sanctuary for al-Qa`ida and the Taliban. In private discussions, Pakistani officials also blame the United States for direct military operations in FATA, leading to the collapse of some deals.