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Casualties in Pakistan after suspected US air strike

Text by AFP

Latest update : 2008-12-10

A suspected US air strike on Wednesday killed at least five people in a Pakistani tribal area near the Afghan border, just hours after US military chief Admiral Michael Mullen reiterated Washington's respect for the sovereignty of Pakistan.


At least five people were killed when four missiles fired by suspected US drones Wednesday struck a compound in a northwestern Pakistani tribal area near the Afghan border, officials said.
  
"Five people including foreigners were killed and three others injured when the missiles hit a compound in Baghar Cheena area in the restive South Waziristan region," a security official told AFP.
  
Foreigner is a term used by Pakistan authorities for Al-Qaeda militants.
  
Nationalities of those killed in the strike were not immediately known.
  
"There are a few militant training camps in the area and no civilian population around the site of the strikes," another official said.
  
He said the Baghar Cheena area was the stronghold of local Taliban commander Maulvi Nazeer. But it was not immediately clear whether he was in the area at the time of the strike.
  
"Two missiles directly hit the compound while the other two fell in the surrounding area," the official said, adding that the strike completely destroyed the compound.
  
South Waziristan is a known haven for Taliban and Al-Qaeda militants.
  
The latest strike came hours after US military chief Admiral Michael Mullen reiterated Washington's respect for the sovereignty of Pakistan.
  
Mullen, who flew to Islamabad on an unannounced trip late Tuesday, met Pakistan army chief General Ashfaq Kayani and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani amid tensions over US raids on tribal areas bordering Afghanistan.
  
"Admiral Mullen reiterated the US commitment to respect Pakistan's sovereignty and to develop further US-Pakistani cooperation and coordination on these critical issues that challenge the security and well-being of the people of both countries," a US embassy statement said after talks.
  
Pakistan and the United States have been drawn into a row over the strikes, with Kayani strongly criticising them and insisting no deal existed to allow foreign troops to conduct them.
  
The Pakistani army repeated its position last Friday via an official statement quoting Kayani that pledged to safeguard the country's "territorial integrity."
  
As well as missile strikes, Pakistan last week for the first time accused Afghanistan-based troops of carrying out a direct attack on its territory, with a raid in the South Waziristan tribal zone that left 15 people dead.
  
Missile strikes targeting militants in Pakistan in recent weeks have been blamed on US-led coalition forces or CIA drones based in Afghanistan. Pakistan does not have missile-equipped drones.
  
US and Afghan officials say Pakistan's tribal areas are a safe haven for Al-Qaeda and Taliban militants who sneaked into the rugged terrain after the fall of the Taliban regime in late 2001.

Date created : 2008-09-17

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