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Asia-pacific

Suspected US drone hits Taliban training camp

Latest update : 2009-04-01

Suspected US drone strikes hit a Taliban training camp in northwest Pakistan killing 12 people, security officials said. The strike comes a day after Pakistan Taliban chief Baitullah Mehsud claimed the deadly Lahore police academy attack.

AFP - A suspected US drone fired two missiles into an alleged Taliban and Al-Qaeda training centre in northwest Pakistan on Wednesday, killing up to 12 militants, security officials said.
  
It was the first reported strike from a pilotless US aircraft since US President Barack Obama last week unveiled a sweeping new strategy designed to defeat Islamist militants holed up in Pakistan and neighbouring Afghanistan.
  
The missiles struck the suspected den 25 kilometres (16 miles) northeast of Hangu in the semi-autonomous Orakzai tribal region, an extremist stronghold, a security official said.
  
"Twelve militants were killed in two missile attacks... on a training centre run by Taliban and Al-Qaeda militants," the official told AFP on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to release the information.
  
"Some foreigners are believed to be among those killed," the official added.
  
Pakistani officials use the word "foreigner" to refer to suspected Al-Qaeda fighters, but the precise identities of the dead was not confirmed.
  
Members of the hardline Taliban movement told AFP that "some guests" had been staying at the building, in another reference to foreign militants.
  
Militants said up to 10 people were killed at what they described as a local Taliban office in the remote and mountainous district.
  
A local security official also said up to 10 militants died in a missile strike.
  
"Six bodies and 15 injured have been brought to hospital," doctor Qaseem Gul told AFP from a nearby hospital, saying he had no time to give further details because of the emergency situation.
  
Taliban quickly sealed off the scene, preventing residents from accessing the wreckage, a witness said.
  
More than 35 missile strikes have killed over 340 people since August 2008, fanning hostility against the United States and the weak Islamabad government, a key US ally.
  
The US military as a rule does not confirm drone attacks, but its armed forces and Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) operating in Afghanistan are the only forces that deploy drones in the region.
  
Wednesday's attack was the eighth missile strike in Pakistan blamed on unmanned US aircraft since Obama came to power, squashing hopes here that his administration would abandon the tactic.
  
Pakistan has protested to Washington that drone strikes violate its territorial sovereignty and deepen resentment among the 160 million people of the nuclear-armed nation.
  
The lawless tribal areas in northwest Pakistan have been dogged by violence since hundreds of Taliban and Al-Qaeda rebels sought refuge in the region after the US-led invasion of Afghanistan toppled the Taliban regime in late 2001.
  
Obama last Friday put Pakistan at the heart of the fight against Al-Qaeda, tripling US aid and declaring its border with Afghanistan the most dangerous place in the world for Americans.
  
Referring to US missile strikes on militants, Obama said in a television interview broadcast last Sunday: "If we have a high-value target within our sights, after consulting with Pakistan, we're going after them."
  
He ruled out sending US troops in hot pursuit of extremists across the Afghan border into Pakistan -- but demanded Islamabad hold up its end of the anti-terror struggle.
  
"Our plan does not change the recognition of Pakistan as a sovereign government," he said. "We need to work with them and through them to deal with Al-Qaeda. But we have to hold them much more accountable."

Date created : 2009-04-01

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