Friday, May 25, 2018

American Code Pink activists join Pakistan convoy protesting drone strikes

CHASHMA, Pakistan — Hundreds of political activists, led by the opposition politician Imran Khan and accompanied by 32 American peace activists, left Pakistan's capital Saturday in a convoy headed toward the country's tribal regions to protest U.S. drone strikes.

Khan's political party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf or Pakistan Movement for Justice, called the motorcade a "peace march" to demand an end to U.S. drone strikes, which he says kill innocent civilians and breed militancy.

The convoy's destination is Kotkai, a town in the South Waziristan tribal region, which is the hometown of Hakimullah Mehsud, the leader of the Pakistani Taliban, and is currently under the control of the Pakistani military. Mehsud is believed to be hiding in North Waziristan, which has become a militant stronghold.

Khan had said that he planned to reach Kotkai by noon today, but by Saturday evening it appeared more likely that the convoy, which consisted of at least 200 vehicles, would not be allowed to enter South Waziristan by the Pakistani civil and military authorities, who cited security concerns.

Foreigners are also restricted from entering the tribal areas, and it remained unclear whether the 32 U.S. members of the antiwar group Code Pink would be allowed to go beyond Dera Ismail Khan, a city near the tribal region, where rally participants planned to spend the night.

The Taliban have threatened the convoy's participants and Khan.

In neighboring Afghanistan, two American troops were killed Saturday. Eastern Afghanistan has seen heavy fighting in recent months, the U.S. military said.

No other information about the deaths was disclosed, pending notification of family members.

But a U.S. military official said two U.S. special operations forces were killed by small-arms fire in Wardak province, southwest of Kabul. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to describe the deaths.

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