Funerals for Pakistani militants killed in drone strike

Peshawar: Thousands have attended the weekend funerals of 21 Pakistani militants killed in a drone strike in Afghanistan, local officials and residents said, with one official putting the total death toll around 50.

The strike was carried out last Wednesday on a training camp in the eastern province of Khost near the border with Pakistan, local authorities said.

They said it was launched by the United States. There was no immediate confirmation from the US-dominated NATO force which is combating Taliban and other militants in Afghanistan.

It is unclear how many people were killed. The Khost provincial governor Hukum Khan Habibi put the figure as high as 50 but that could not be confirmed.

A local Pakistani security official and residents told AFP Sunday that 21 bodies were brought to the Upper and Lower Dir districts in Pakistan’s northwestern province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa for burial.

“I myself attended the funeral prayer for four fighters, villagers told me they were mujahideen,” said Alamzeb Khan, a district official in Lower Dir.

Khan said the coffins were wrapped in the flag of Al Badr, a Pakistani militant group linked to the Taliban, and guests at the funeral shouted jihadi slogans against US troops in Afghanistan.

The bodies were badly mutilated, and one villager who attended the funeral said the names of the fighters had been written on the wooden coffins for identification.

“I fear that the number of fighters killed in the drone strike was high and we may receive more dead bodies,” the security official told AFP.

Governor Hukum Khan Habibi said the strike was staged on Wednesday. “In this incident, more than 50 Pakistani fighters were killed.”

Faizullah Ghairat, Khost provincial police chief, confirmed the attack and said it was carried out by the US.

In June 2014 the Pakistani army launched a major attack on militants operating in Pakistan’s tribal areas on the border, where they had previously been operating with impunity, driving many into Afghanistan.

US drone strikes have long targeted militants hiding along the porous border between the two countries.

The programme has caused uproar in Pakistan and Afghanistan over civilian casualties in botched strikes.