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Drone attacks breed vendetta killings

As drone-fired missiles drop with furious frequency in the tribal area of North Waziristan, so do the bodies. As often as seven times a week, tribesmen there say, corpses appear in fields and on roadsides with dark warnings pinned to their tunics: All American spies will meet the same fate.

world Updated: Dec 24, 2010 22:35 IST

As drone-fired missiles drop with furious frequency in the tribal area of North Waziristan, so do the bodies. As often as seven times a week, tribesmen there say, corpses appear in fields and on roadsides with dark warnings pinned to their tunics: All American spies will meet the same fate.

Espionage has long been viewed as an egregious offense in the lawless borderland, but residents say the current pace of assassinations is unprecedented. The escalation parallels a surge in CIA drone attacks on North Waziristan, home to a nest of insurgents that includes Al Qaeda and the Haqqani network, an Afghan militia considered the most lethal foe of US troops in neighboring Afghanistan.

CIA drones have fired 112 missiles on Pakistan’s tribal areas this year, 88 per cent of which hit North Waziristan, in a campaign whose effectiveness is hotly debated. But tribesmen say the US campaign has had far-reaching consequences for the way of life in North Waziristan and provoked cycles of violence that, once in motion, are difficult to predict and impossible to control.

In interviews, several Pakistani officials, tribesmen, and one militant said the torrent of strikes has forced residents to stay indoors and deny friends shelter, fearing allegations of spying. The attacks have forced militants to ditch truck convoys and cellphones, and, in the case of the Pakistani Taliban, shutter an office in the town of Mir Ali.

Above all, residents said, the stepped-up strikes have perpetuated an entrenched culture of clan rivalry and retribution. With scant proof, militants are purging suspected moles, and their willingness to do so has made the accusation a valuable tool for people seeking revenge for land disputes or other personal enmities.

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