The United Nations refugee agency also said it had not been operating in the tribal regions of Pakistan since 2005. “We don’t have any access to FATA,” Qaisar Khan Afridi, the agency’s spokesman said, referring to the semiautonomous tribal regions.
But Pakistani officials maintain that there are 43 Afghan refugee settlements in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Province, and that some of the settlements overlap with the adjoining tribal regions.
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The Pakistani military said in a statement that the drone strike had singled out a house in one such settlement in the province’s Hangu District, and that Afghan refugees were present in the settlement. The settlement was not an “organized terrorist sanctuary,” it said.
A Pakistani security official, speaking on the condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to speak to the news media, said that the confusion about the location had arisen as the targeted house was in a settlement at the junction of the Kurram, North Waziristan and Hangu regions.
The number of people killed in the strike was also disputed. Although initial reports from the remote region said that two of the commander’s aides had died in the strike, the local news media reported on Thursday that only two people in total had been killed. The Pakistani security official said the security forces could confirm only the militant commander’s death.
The conflicting accounts of the drone strike are yet another strain in an already difficult relationship between United States and Pakistan. This month the Trump administration announced that it would suspend nearly all security aid to Pakistan, an across-the-board freeze reflecting Washington’s frustration with what it considers to be a refusal by the country to crack down on terrorist networks operating there.
The Haqqani network has carried out numerous high-profile 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 soured relations between United States and Pakistan.