ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — A leader of the militant Haqqani network and two of his aides were killed Wednesday in an American drone strike in northwestern Pakistan, an attack that was denounced by the Pakistani government.
The attack took place on Wednesday morning in the Speen Thal Dapa Mamozai area of the Kurram tribal region and was directed at a house that the Pakistani authorities said was being used by Afghan refugees. The militant commander, Nasir Mehmood, who was also known as Khawari, and two of his aides were killed.
The Haqqani network, affiliated with the Taliban and designated as a terrorist group by the United States, has carried out numerous deadly attacks in Afghanistan in recent years. The presence of its leaders and militants in Pakistan and its links with the country’s military intelligence agency have long caused friction between the United States and Pakistan.
The Kurram region has been used frequently by Haqqani network fighters to cross into neighboring Afghanistan.
American officials have repeatedly demanded that the Pakistanis take action against the Haqqani network, but Pakistani officials deny that the militants have any organized presence inside the country.
Wednesday’s attack was at least the third American drone strike in the past two months in Pakistani territory.
Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs condemned Wednesday’s drone strike as a violation of the country’s sovereignty.
“Pakistan has continued to emphasize to the U.S. the importance of sharing actionable intelligence so that appropriate action is taken against terrorists by our forces within our territory,” the ministry said in a statement. “Such unilateral actions, as that of today, are detrimental to the spirit of cooperation between the two countries in the fight against terrorism.”
Pakistani military and civil officials insisted that Wednesday’s attack struck an Afghan refugee camp, which they said validated their stance that Afghan refugees be sent back to Afghanistan.
At least 2.7 million Afghan refugees are living in various parts of the country, and Pakistani military officials say the refugee camps and settlements provide shelter to Taliban and Haqqani militants.
“There are no organized militant sanctuaries inside Pakistan anymore,” said Maj. Gen. Asif Ghafoor, a Pakistani military spokesman. “Afghan refugees, including 1.2 million unregistered, are difficult to trace. The militants morph into refugees. This is the reason we feel repatriation of Afghan refugees is essential.