PESHAWAR, Pakistan — Ending a five-month hiatus, the CIA resumed its drone campaign in Pakistan today with a missile strike that killed at least four people at a compound in the tribal district of North Waziristan, Pakistani officials said.
The drone fired several missiles at a truck parked outside a house four miles north of Miram Shah, the main town in North Waziristan, said a Pakistani security official in Peshawar.
It was uncertain initially who had been killed in the strike. But a majority of the victims, by several accounts, were Uzbek fighters from the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan — a Taliban-allied jihadi group that only hours earlier had boasted of its role in Sunday’s audacious assault on the Karachi airport, which led to at least 36 deaths.
Speaking from the tribal belt, another Pakistani official reported five deaths — three Uzbeks and two members of the Haqqani network, a Taliban-allied faction that regularly attacks U.S. and Afghan forces in Afghanistan and that until last month held Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl hostage. Both Pakistani officials spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence details publicly. A CIA official would not comment on the strike in Pakistan.
A resident of Miram Shah said by telephone that the force of today’s attack rattled windows in the town. It was the first known CIA drone strike inside Pakistan since Dec. 25, when missiles struck another compound near Miram Shah and killed at least three people.
Although the CIA has never explained the subsequent pause, many Pakistani analysts believe it was to allow Pakistan’s government a chance to negotiate with the Taliban. However, those talks have fallen apart amid a new wave of militant attacks and government airstrikes.
Another factor may also be involved. On Sunday, James N. Mattis, the former leader of the U.S. Central Command, said on CNN that concern about Bergdahl’s safety had weighed on any potential military strikes against the Haqqanis. That concern is now gone, he said, adding, “There’s also a freedom to operate against them that perhaps we didn’t fully enjoy.”
Within Pakistan, the country’s military and civilian leaders, spurred by outrage over the Karachi assault, are contemplating a new offensive against the Taliban.
In the past week, Pakistan’s military has conducted airstrikes against suspected militant targets in North Waziristan, particularly in neighborhoods dominated by ethnic Uighur and Uzbek militants.