Obama stepping up Pakistan drone strikes

Feb. 21, 2009 at 3:38 PM
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ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, Feb. 21 (UPI) -- The United States has expanded a covert war in Pakistan targeting Islamic militants seeking to topple Islamabad, The New York Times reported Saturday.

Two missile strikes within a week launched on training camps run by militant leader Baitullah Mehsud indicate the Obama administration is broadening the American campaign inside northwestern Pakistan, the newspaper said.

The United States has for several years aimed such drone missile attacks at militants from al-Qaida and the Taliban who are involved in cross-border attacks into Afghanistan. But now U.S. forces are also targeting Mehsud and his followers, even though they have not played direct roles in attacks on American troops, the newspaper said.

The drone strikes, coordinated by the Central Intelligence Agency, are evidence Obama is expanding the use of spy agencies against terrorism suspects in Pakistan, as he had promised to do last year while on the campaign trail, the Times said.

A missile strike last weekend reportedly was aimed specifically at Mehsud, who has been identified by both U.S. and Pakistani officials as the man who had orchestrated the assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.

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