Pakistan Air Force threatens to shoot down US drones

A US Air Force MQ-9 Reaper drone takes off from Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan March 9, 2016. (File photo by Reuters)
Updated 08 December 2017
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Pakistan Air Force threatens to shoot down US drones

ISLAMABAD: The head of the Pakistan Air Force, Air Chief Marshal Sohail Aman, has warned that US drones violating the country’s airspace will be shot down, marking a significant shift in Pakistan’s US policy.
Aman was speaking at the opening ceremony of the Air Tech Conference and Techno Show in Islamabad on Thursday evening.
“We will protect the sovereignty of the country at any cost,” he said, adding that Pakistan is working on its own unmanned drones and that a new unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) will be manufactured in the next 18 months.
The US has been carrying out drone strikes on militants inside Pakistani territory since June 2004, initially from air bases inside Pakistan. When relations soured in 2011, the US was forced to shift its drone bases across the border to Afghanistan.
Successive Pakistani governments have publicly condemned the drone strikes, but experts have said that there was a tacit agreement in place between America and Pakistan to allow the strikes to take place.
Sen. Nuzhat Sadiq, chairperson of the Senate’s Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, told Arab News that Pakistan has effectively eliminated terrorists and militants from its territory through various military operations so there is no need for US drones now.
“It is the policy of the government not to allow any more US drone strikes on our soil, and the air chief has effectively conveyed it to the Americans,” she said.
Sadiq said that Pakistan is a nuclear state and could not allow any country to violate its sovereignty. “We are on a strong footing now, and introducing viable changes in our foreign policy toward the US,” she said.
According to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, the US has carried out a total of 429 drone strikes inside Pakistan since June 2004, killing 2,938 people, including civilians.
The most recent strike inside Pakistani territory was on Sept. 15 in Kurram Agency, on the border with Afghanistan, in which three people were killed.
Aziz Ahmad Khan, an expert on foreign affairs and former diplomat, told Arab News that Pakistan would not need to shoot down any US drones as the “matter has already been settled with the Americans in some recent high-level meetings.”
“The number of US drone strikes in Pakistan has already reduced significantly and we hope to get rid of this counterproductive menace forever,” he added.
Retired Gen. Talat Masood, a defense analyst, told Arab News that Pakistan has explained to the US that Pakistan will no longer be used as a base for terrorist attacks in neighboring countries as it has eliminated all the militants’ “safe havens.”
“The air chief’s statement is a message to the US that it should cooperate with Pakistan to fight against militancy, instead of carrying out unilateral drone attacks in Pakistan,” he said.
He warned, however, that the government should be prepared for repercussions from the US, as “the superpower is not going to digest this change in policy easily.”


Death toll reaches 73 in Mexico fuel pipeline fire horror

Updated 12 min 12 sec ago
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Death toll reaches 73 in Mexico fuel pipeline fire horror

  • The explosion of the illegal pipeline in central Mexico killed more than 70 people
  • The new president promised earlier to fight the epidemic of fuel theft

TLAHUELILPAN, Mexico: They were warned to stay away from the geyser of gasoline gushing from the illegally tapped pipeline in central Mexico, but Gerardo Perez says he and his son joined others in bypassing the soldiers. As they neared the spurting fuel he was overcome with foreboding.
Perez recalls telling his son: “Let’s go ... this thing is going to explode.”
And it did, with a fireball that engulfed locals scooping up the spilling gasoline and underscored the dangers of an epidemic of fuel theft from pipelines that Mexico’s new president has vowed to fight.
By Saturday evening the death toll from Friday’s blaze had risen to 73, with another 74 people injured and dozens more were missing. Perez and his son escaped the flames.