Pakistan to use armed drones against terrorists

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — The Pakistani military said Friday that it has successfully tested its first armed drone and will begin using the weapons against terrorists operating inside the country’s borders.

The military said the Burraq drones will be equipped with a laser-guided missile capable of striking with “pinpoint accuracy” in all types of weather. In the Koran, Burraq is the name of the white horse that took the Islamic prophet to heaven.

Gen. Raheel Sharif, Pakistan’s army chief of staff, witnessed the test and commended the country’s engineers and scientists for “untiring efforts to acquire state-of-the-art technology” that puts “Pakistan in a different league.”

“It’s a great national achievement and momentous occasion,” Sharif said. “Let’s join hands to take Pakistan forward.”

Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who is not related to the army chief, also issued a statement hailing the new drone. Nawaz Sharif said the weapons would “add a new dimension to Pakistan’s defenses.”

It was not immediately clear how quickly Pakistan plans to deploy its drones on the battlefield. But the military released a photo showing a dozen of them arrayed in a parking lot.

According to the New America Foundation, only eight other countries – the United States, South Africa, France, Nigeria, Britain, Iran, Israel and China – have armed drones. But dozens of other countries, including Pakistan’s archrival, India, are in the process of developing them, according to the foundation. Last month, the Obama administration said it would permit the export of armed drones to U.S. allies who request them on a “case-by-case basis.”

In November 2013, Pakistan announced that it had developed an unarmed drone. At the time, military leaders said that drone would only be used for surveillance and suggested that they had no plans to arm them.

But Pakistan’s military posture changed after the Pakistan Taliban attacked an army-run school in Peshawar in December, killing about 150 students and teachers. After that attack, the military stepped up its campaign against Taliban strongholds in the northwestern part of the country near the border with Afghanistan.

Pakistani leaders also tempered their longstanding opposition to U.S. drone strikes on Pakistani soil. The U.S.-led coalition in Afghanistan has promised it will help Pakistan target the Taliban militants responsible for the Peshawar massacre.

Pakistan’s development of its own armed drone, however, could once again prompt Pakistani leaders to resist U.S. drone strikes on Pakistani soil. Raheel Sharif said Pakistan’s drone will give the military new “multiple capabilities” against terrorists.

The drone test was the second major announcement this week from the Pakistan military about its growing arsenal. On Monday, the military said it had successfully tested a new medium-range ballistic missile capable of carrying a nuclear weapon.

The Shaheen-III missile has a range of 1,700 miles and is capable of carrying a warhead to any part of India as well as deep into the Middle East, including Israel.

Video: Pakistan military video shows drone testing.

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