ISLAMABAD, March 17 (Xinhua) -- At least 80 people were killed in U.S. drone strikes launched Thursday morning in different parts of Pakistan's northwest tribal area of North Waziristan, reported local state-run Urdu TV channel PTV, but the report failed to give details other than saying 12 missiles were fired at different targets in the afore-said area.
Late Thursday morning, there came in the news that U.S. drones launched a strike in the Datta Khel area of North Waziristan. Initial reports by most of the local media said that two missiles were fired at a house in which militants were said to be holding a meeting inside, killing 4 people and injuring several others.
But the death toll has kept rising as more information came in from the remote area with inadequate communication facilities. Some local media reports said the target of the U.S. drones is a house at a village in the Datta Khel area in which a meeting was being held by local Taliban militants while others reported that the target was actually a tribal "jirga" or council of elders to resolve dispute over the ownership of minerals in the mountains in North Waziristan tribal region.
According to a tribal elder who asked to remain anonymous in a telephone interview from Miranshah, center of North Waziristan, the tribesmen from Madda Khel tribe were holding a meeting at Nawai Adda area, some 25 kilometers from Miranshah, when two U.S. drones fired four missiles at the participants of the tribal council at 11:30 am (local time)
The elder said that the strike killed 41 people including six tribal elders and some children.
The injured were later transferred to the hospital in Miranshah and some of them were in critical condition, said hospital sources.
The tribal elder rejected the reports that the target was a meeting held by militants. He said that all were local tribesmen. He said that the Madda Khel tribe had sold a chromite mine on 8.8 million rupees (slightly over 100,000 US dollars) to a man and both parties later disagreed over the payment method and the jirga was called to settle the dispute.
Member of National Assembly from the region, Kamran Khan, condemned the drone strike and said that mostly innocent people were killed and injured in the Thursday's strike.
Residents said that they had seen four drones hovering over the area before and after the attack. They said two aircraft fired missiles.
Thursday's strike is the 23rd of its kind in Pakistan since 2011 and also one of the most deadly strikes in the country over the last few years. To date, at least 187 people have reportedly been killed in such strikes since this year.