Obama widens ambit of covert CIA strikes inside Pakistan

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Washington, Feb 21 (ANI): The US missile strikes inside Pakistan's tribal areas is not only targeting al Qaeda militants, but also Tehreek-i-Taliban chief Behtullah Mehsud's and his fighters who are trying to topple the democratic regime in Islamabad.

The Barack Obama administration has expanded the covert war run by the Central Intelligence Agency inside Pakistan and the two missile strikes over the past week on training camps run by Mehsud represent a broadening of the campaign, the New York Times reports.

During President Geroge W Bush's tenure the drone attacks targeted militants from al Qaeda and the Taliban involved in cross-border attacks into Afghanistan, but stopped short of raids aimed at Mehsud and his followers.

The strikes are another sign that President Obama is continuing, and in some cases extending, the Bush Administration policy in using US spy agencies against terrorism suspects in Pakistan.

Both American and Pakistani officials identified Mehsud early last year as the man who had orchestrated the assassination of former premier Benazir Bhutto. Bush included Mehsud's name in a classified list of militant leaders whom the CIA is authorized to capture or kill.

The NYT described the Saturday strike being specifically aimed at Mehsud, but he was not killed, according to Pakistani and American officials.

The Monday strike, officials say, was aimed at a camp run by Hakeem Ullah Mehsud, a top aide to the militant. By striking at the Mehsud network, the United States may be seeking to demonstrate to Zardari that the new administration is willing to go after the insurgents of greatest concern to the Pakistani leader.

According to one senior Pakistani official, Pakistan's intelligence service on two occasions in recent months gave the US detailed intelligence about Mehsud's whereabouts, but said the United States had not acted on the information.

The strikes came after a visit to Islamabad last week by Richard C. Holbrooke, the American envoy to Pakistan and Afghanistan. (ANI)

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