U.S. drones fired missiles at Taliban hideouts in Pakistan, killing at least 10 terrorists in response to a deadly attack on Karachi airport, officials said on Thursday, in the first such raids by unmanned CIA aircraft in six months.
Two top government officials said Islamabad had given the Americans “express approval” for the strikes, the first time Pakistan has admitted to such cooperation.
Underlining Pakistan’s alarm over the brazen Taliban attack on the airport, just weeks after peace talks with the Islamist terrorists stalled, the officials told Reuters a “joint Pakistan-U.S. operation” had been ordered to hit the insurgents.
Another official said Pakistan had asked the United States for help after the attack on the country’s busiest airport on Sunday, and would be intensifying air strikes on terrorist hideouts in coming days.
Pakistan publicly opposes U.S. drone strikes, saying they kill too many civilians and violate its sovereignty, although in private officials have admitted the government supports them.
“The attacks were launched with the express approval of the Pakistan government and army,” said a top government official, requesting not to be named as he was not authorized to discuss the issue with the media.
“It is now policy that the Americans will not use drones without permission from the security establishment here. There will be complete coordination and Pakistan will be in the loop.
“We understand that drones will be an important part of our fight against the Taliban now,” the official added.
The strikes were the first in the nuclear-armed South Asian nation since an attack in December last year in which three suspected were killed. The CIA conducts covert drone operations against terrorism suspects.