US drone strikes kill Pakistani Taliban commander

A US drone strike killed a Pakistani Taliban commander, Khan Said, alias Sajna, and three more people, when missiles struck his pick-up truck in Margha village in the Birmal district of Paktika province in Afghanistan. (US Air Force)
Updated 09 February 2018
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US drone strikes kill Pakistani Taliban commander

PESHAWAR: A pair of suspected US missile strikes killed a senior Pakistani Taliban deputy and other militants in the border regions of Afghanistan and Pakistan, officials said on Friday.
Four Pakistani intelligence officials and three Taliban commanders told Reuters on Friday that two separate US missile strikes on Wednesday killed the fighters.
One of the strikes, they said, killed a Pakistani Taliban commander, Khan Said, alias Sajna, and three more people, when missiles struck his pick-up truck in Margha village of Birmal district in Paktika province of Afghanistan.
The NATO-led Operation Resolute Support in Afghanistan said it had no information about the strike.
The officials sought anonymity because they weren’t authorized to disclose the information. They are based in Pakistan’s northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province and have informants on the ground on both sides of the border.
They said on Friday they have also been picking up militants’ chatter through phone intercepts in which they were talking about Sajna’s killing. Three Pakistani Taliban commanders confirmed their account.
Sajna has been an important militant commander of the Pakistani Taliban and had close links with the Afghan Taliban, the officials said.
Two of the officials said they were trying to confirm reports of another suspected US drone strike in North Waziristan on Pakistani side of the border.
The second strike hit a compound in Gurwek town of North Waziristan, killing seven militants, the three Taliban commanders said.
North Waziristan and Paktika province in Afghanistan are adjacent to the border, and the officials and the militant commanders may have been reporting the same strike as two separate ones.
The border region has long been home to local and Al-Qaeda linked foreign militants. It is off limits to journalists and verifying any information independently is difficult.
US drone strikes in the border regions of Pakistan have picked up since US President Donald Trump took office in January 2017, though they are a long way off their peak in 2010.
Relations between Washington and Islamabad have frayed in recent months after Trump’s angry tweet on Jan. 1 about Pakistan’s “lies and deceit” over its alleged support for the Afghan Taliban and their allies. Last month, the United States suspended about $2 billion assistance to Islamabad.
Pakistan denies sheltering militants and accuses Washington of not respecting Pakistan’s sacrifices in the war on militancy.
“There’re still several drones flying here,” one of the three Taliban commanders said on Friday speaking by phone from the Paktika province.


100s of S. Koreans to enter North to reunite with loved ones

South Korean participants sit to register to take part in family reunions with their North Korean family members at a hotel in Sokcho, South Korea, Sunday, Aug. 19, 2018. (AP)
Updated 25 min 56 sec ago
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100s of S. Koreans to enter North to reunite with loved ones

  • 180 families to be reunited in North's mountain resort
  • More than 57,000 have registered for a reunion

SEOUL, South Korea: About 200 South Koreans and their family members prepared to cross into North Korea on Monday for heart-wrenching meetings with relatives most haven’t seen since they were separated by the turmoil of the Korean War.
The weeklong event at North Korea’s Diamond Mountain resort comes as the rival Koreas boost reconciliation efforts amid a diplomatic push to resolve a standoff over North Korea’s drive for a nuclear weapons program that can reliably target the continental United States.
The temporary reunions are highly emotional because most of those taking part are elderly people eager to see their loved ones once more before they die. Most of these families were driven apart during the 1950-53 Korean War, which ended in a cease-fire, not a peace treaty, leaving the Korean Peninsula still in a technical state of war.
Buses carrying the elderly South Koreans attending this week’s reunions arrived at a border immigration office Monday morning. Red Cross workers wearing yellow vests waved at them. Some were in wheelchairs and others were aided by workers as they got off the buses and moved to the South Korean immigration office in the eastern border town of Goseong. After undergoing immigration checks, they were to cross the border by buses and travel to Diamond Mountain.
Past reunions have produced powerful images of elderly Koreans crying, embracing and caressing each other. Nearly 20,000 people have participated in 20 rounds of face-to-face reunions held between the countries since 2000. Another 3,700 exchanged video messages with their North Korean relatives under a short-lived program from 2005 to 2007. No one has had a second chance to see their relatives.
According to Seoul’s Unification Ministry, 197 separated South Koreans and their family members will take part in the first round of reunions that run from Monday to Wednesday. Another 337 South Koreans will participate in a second round of reunions from Friday to Sunday.
South Korea will also send dozens of medical and emergency staff to Diamond Mountain to prepare for potential health problems considering the large number of elderly participants.
Many of the South Korean participants are war refugees born in North Korea who will be meeting their siblings or the infant children they left behind, many of them now into their 70s.
Park Hong-seo, an 88-year-old Korean War veteran from the southern city of Daegu, said he always wondered whether he’d faced his older brother in battle.
After graduating from a Seoul university, Park’s brother settled in the North Korean coastal town of Wonsan as a dentist in 1946. After the war broke out, Park was told by a co-worker that his brother refused to flee to the South because he had a family in the North and was a surgeon in the North Korean army.
Park fought for the South as a student soldier and was among the allied troops who took over Wonsan in October 1950. The US-led forces advanced farther north in the following weeks before being driven back by a mass of Chinese forces after Beijing intervened in the conflict.
Park learned that his brother died in 1984. At Diamond Mountain, he will meet his North Korean nephew and niece, who are 74 and 69, respectively.
“I want to ask them what his dying wish was and what he said about me,” Park said in a telephone interview last week. “I wonder whether there’s a chance he saw me when I was in Wonsan.”
During the three years since the reunions were last held, the North tested three nuclear weapons and multiple missiles that demonstrated a potential of striking the continental United States.
North Korea has shifted to diplomacy in recent months. Leader Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in, a son of North Korean war refugees, agreed to resume the reunions during the first of their two summits this year in April.
South Korea sees the separated families as the largest humanitarian issue created by the war, which killed and injured millions and cemented the division of the Korean Peninsula into the North and South. The ministry estimates there are currently about 600,000 to 700,000 South Koreans with immediate or extended relatives in North Korea.
But Seoul has failed to persuade Pyongyang to accept its long-standing call for more frequent reunions with more participants.
The limited number of reunions cannot meet the demands of divided family members, who are now mostly in their 80s and 90s, South Korean officials say. More than 75,000 of the 132,000 South Koreans who have applied to participate in reunions have died, according to the Seoul ministry.
Analysts say North Korea sees the reunions as an important bargaining chip with the South, and doesn’t want them expanded because they give its people better awareness of the outside world. While South Korea uses a computerized lottery to pick participants for the reunions, North Korea is believed to choose based on loyalty to its authoritarian leadership.