Conflict & Justice

Pakistani troops fight the Taliban for U.S. drone debris

An unmanned C.I.A. drone crashed Saturday night near Jangara village in South Waziristan, and Pakistani troops fought Taliban militants on Sunday morning for pieces of the aircraft.

It was unclear whether the drone had crashed because of technical failure or because Taliban fighters shot it down.

Pakistan first learned of the crash by intercepting Taliban radio communications, Pakistani intelligence officials told The Associated Press.

The Pakistani army confronted Taliban militants who seized the debris, and a firefight ensued. Three Taliban militants were killed and three militants and two soldiers were wounded in the fighting, Pakistani officials told the AP.

Pakistani officials said the troops were successful in seizing the debris, but Pakistani Taliban commander Azmatullah Diwana told the AP his fighters repelled the soldiers. The army had sent helicopter gunships into the area where the militants were holding the debris, Diwana told the AP.

According to the Washington Post:

The crash would be among very few in the seven-year history of the drone campaign in Pakistan, and it could risk the exposure of extremely sensitive technology, including cameras and other sensors used to monitor insurgents. While the Taliban might have little tactical use for the debris, some of Pakistan’s allies – including Iran and China – might be interested in it.

In May, an American helicopter crashed during the U.S. commando raid that killed Osama bin Laden in the northwestern city of Abbottabad, and U.S. officials later said they suspected, but had not confirmed, that Pakistan gave the Chinese access to the largely destroyed helicopter. Pakistani officials denied doing so.

Drone attacks have increased in North and South Waziristan since President Barack Obama took office in 2008, BBC News reports, with more than 100 missile raids reported in the area last year. The CIA-run drone attacks, which the U.S. government does not publicly acknowledge, have taken out several high-level militants hiding out in Pakistan's semiautonomous tribal region in recent months.

(More from GlobalPost: Al Qaeda leader reported dead in Pakistan)

(More from GlobalPost: CIA drone kills Al Qaeda No. 2)