Suspected US missile strike kills 15

Suspected U.S. drones fired missiles into Pakistan on Friday killing at least 14 people, local security officials and residents said, adding that most of them were "foreigners", the term usually employed to designate Afghan al Qaeda members.


AFP - Missiles fired from suspected US drones slammed into militant dens in Pakistan's northwest tribal belt on Friday killing at least 15 people, including three children, officials said.

The strikes, which saw up to five missiles slam into two houses, were the first since US President Barack Obama took office and came one day after he appointed a veteran diplomat special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Dozens of similar strikes on northwest Pakistan since August have sparked angry government criticism of the United States, a close ally which is believed to be launching the missiles from unmanned CIA aircraft.

Eight people died when missiles fired from an unmanned surveillance plane slammed into a fortress-like militant compound near a Mir Ali, a notorious Al-Qaeda hub in Pakistan's North Waziristan, security officials said.

Hours later a suspected US surveillance plane fired another two missiles into a house in Wana, another notorious Taliban and Al-Qaeda extremist hub, killing seven people in South Waziristan district, local officials said.

Although officials initially said most of the seven dead were foreigners -- a term that usually means Al-Qaeda -- a senior security official later told AFP that three children and relatives of the tribesman who owned the house died.

The first missile strike hit just outside Mir Ali, in North Waziristan at 5:10 pm (1210 GMT), a security official told AFP.

"A militant den was successfully destroyed. At least five foreign Al-Qaeda militants were killed and three locals, but there was no immediate confirmation of any high value target," a security official said.

Of the second strike in Wana, local and security officials said at least seven people were killed and dozens wounded.

"Two missiles fired by a suspected US drone hit a house in Wana," a senior security official told AFP, referring to the main town in South Waziristan district and a known hub of Taliban and Al-Qaeda extremists.

Soon after the blast in the Gangikhel neighbourhood of Wana, the main town in South Waziristan, electricity went down and the area plunged into darkness, local officials said.

Wana, a known Taliban and Al Qaeda hub, is also the main stomping ground of Maulvi Nazir, a key Taliban commander accused by the United States of recruiting and sending fighters to Afghanistan to attack US and NATO forces.

Local officials said the target was a guest house owned by a local pro-Taliban tribesman. A senior security official said that as well as three children, the tribesman's relatives were killed in the blast.

Taliban militants immediately surrounded the site of the attack and barred locals from venturing close.

On Thursday, Obama said extremists in Pakistan and Afghanistan, where US troops are fighting Taliban insurgents, posed a grave threat which his administration would tackle as a single problem under a wider strategy.

"There is no answer in Afghanistan that does not confront the Al-Qaeda and Taliban bases along the border, and there will be no lasting peace unless we expand spheres of opportunity for the people of Afghanistan and Pakistan," Obama said.

But Pakistan has repeatedly protested to Washington that drone strikes violate its territorial sovereignty and deepen resentment among the 160 million people of the nuclear-armed Islamic nation.

President Asif Ali Zardari and army chief General Ashfaq Kayani were quoted as telling top US General David Petraeus in Islamabad on Tuesday, that they hoped the Obama administration would take their concerns into consideration.

The US military as a rule does not confirm drone attacks but it and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) operating in neighbouring Afghanistan are the only forces that deploy drones in the region.

US and Afghan officials have accused Pakistan of not doing enough to crack down on militants, who cross the border to attack US and NATO troops.

Pakistan rejects those accusations and more than 1,500 Pakistani troops have been killed at the hands of Islamist extremists since 2002, after the government joined the so-called war on terror.

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