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CIA using smaller missiles to hunt Al-Qaeda, Taliban leaders

world Updated: Apr 26, 2010 15:51 IST
American Central Intelligence Agency

American Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has stepped up the tempo of strikes to assassinate Al-Qaeda and Taliban leaders in Pakistan and is deploying precision smaller missiles to hunt them.

The missiles are no bigger than a violin case and weigh about 16 kg are being used in Pakistan's restive tribal area bordering Afghanistan in the hope of minimising civilian casualties, Washington Post reported.

The paper reported that once such missile was used by the CIA to target a house in Miranshah, the main town of the Waziristan tribal area, which hit the target with precision leading to the collapse of the two-storeyed mud-brick house, killing a top Al-Qaeda terrorist and nine other suspected militants.

Washington Post said that just over 20 civilians are known to have died in missile strikes since January 2009 and in that period CIA carried out more than 70 predator drone attacks that killed 400 terrorists.

Reports of using smaller missiles than the Hellfire, came as the Post quoted a top CIA official describing the predator campaign as "the most aggressive operation in the history of the agency."

Top agency officials said the tempo of attacks had increased to two-three strikes a week, up roughly fourfold from the George Bush years.

It said to provide intelligence for the predator strikes, CIA was running clandestine sources inside Pakistan and paying of tribal leaders on both sides of the border.

The agency's assets are former terrorists who have decided to flip.

The paper said that the CIA chief, Leon Panetta, was aware that the squeezing of Al-Qaeda in the tribal areas of Pakistan could lead to the danger of them slipping away to new havens.

So for this, the CIA chief had ordered stepping up of operations in Yemen, Somalia and North and Sub-Saharan Africa.

The use of smaller missiles comes close to US announcement that it will deliver 1,000 lazer guided bomb kits to Pakistan. The deal also includes delivery of 18 new F-16 fighter jets and dozen smaller surveillance drones later this year, in an apparent pay off for greater cooperation in fight against Al-Qaeda and Taliban.