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Suspected Arab militants among casualties of US strike

Remains of suspected Arab militants were found among the rubble in Miranshah, a village located in the Pakistani tribal province of North Waziristan that was struck by a US missile Friday. The attack left at least 20 dead, mostly local residents.

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MIRANSHAH - Pakistani villagers collected body parts of at least 20 people, including several suspected Arab militants, killed by a U.S. missile strike on a house in a northwestern tribal area, intelligence officials said on Saturday.

 

A pilotless drone aircraft launched the attack late on Friday in the village of Mohammad Khel, 30 km (20 miles) west of Miranshah in North Waziristan, a known sanctuary of al Qaeda and Taliban militants.

 

"We now have a figure of 20 that includes eight residents of the house, five other locals and seven foreigners," an intelligence official said while speaking on condition of anonymity.

 

The foreigners appeared to be Arabs, although their nationalities were unknown, the official said.

 

The News newspaper reported that the strike was carried out based on information that the foreigners had been invited to a feast by pro-Taliban tribesmen following the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.

 

There were no indications that any of those killed were regarded by U.S. counterterrorism agencies as top tier al Qaeda targets, sources said.

 

A army spokesman said on Saturday that there had been an explosion in the area, but was unable to confirm the cause.

 

COMMANDO RAID

 

Faced with an intensifying Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan, U.S. forces in the past month have carried out eight missile strikes by pilotless drones and a commando raid on the Pakistani side of the border.

 

The airstrikes, and the first ever use of ground troops, have strained relations between the allies.

 

The Pakistani government has protested that the attacks violated territorial sovereignty and undermined its own long term efforts to crush militancy in a country where anti-American sentiment runs high.

 

The Pakistan army is currently fighting fierce battles against militants in Bajaur, at the north east extreme of the tribal belt, and Swat, an alpine valley in a more settled region close to the tribal lands.

 

More than 1,000 militants have been killed in the fighting in Bajaur and Swat since August.

 

Yet, Pakistani assertions that it is doing its utmost to contain militants have done little to appease U.S. concerns.

 

Once day broke in Mohammad Khel, villagers combed the wreckage of the destroyed house to look for any survivors and the bodies of the dead for burial.

 

"We found body parts scattered all over the place in the ruins, someone's hand, someone's leg. It's really horrible," Bakht Ali, one of the villagers, told Reuters.

 

 Earlier on Friday, Pakistani intelligence officials reported another U.S. airstrike on the North Waziristan village of Datta Khel, but a military spokesman said it was on the Afghan side of the border and no intrusion took place into Paksitani territory.

 

U.S. commanders have spoken of respect for Pakistan's sovereignty but have suggested they will not stop cross-border strikes on militants.

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