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Missile kills purported militant in Pak

world Updated: Oct 17, 2008 08:47 IST

A suspected U.S. missile strike killed a purported foreign militant in a Pakistani tribal area considered a haven for the Taliban and al-Qaida, while a suicide bombing left four security personnel dead, officials said.

In another sign of how violence and economic problems are shaking confidence in the nuclear-armed country, Pakistan's currency slumped to an all-time low against the United States dollar Thursday. The missile strike hit a house in the South Waziristan region of Pakistan's wild border belt, considered a likely hiding place for al-Qaida leaders Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahri.

Two Pakistani intelligence officials told The Associated Press that reports from informants and field agents suggested one foreign militant died in the attack and that another foreigner was injured. Asked if any al-Qaida leaders had been hit, the officials said that Arabs had been living in the house but the identities of the victims were not yet clear. They said foreign and Pakistani militants had frequented the house in a remote, forested area since its owner fled the tribal region last year.

Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief the media on the record.

U.S. military and CIA drones that patrol the frontier region are believed to have carried out at least a dozen missile strikes against suspected militant targets since August.

The U.S. rarely confirms or denies involvement in the attacks which have intensified amid frustration in Washington at the escalating insurgency in neighboring Afghanistan. With Pakistan's army also stepping up operations in its volatile northwest, militants have responded with a sequence of bloody suicide attacks, including last month's truck bombing of Islamabad's Marriott Hotel.

Western governments worry that al-Qaida is regrouping in the border zone and that would-be terrorists from Europe and North America are going there to receive training.

Pakistan's political and security problems are deterring foreign investment and exacerbating the country's economic problems, which include runaway inflation and slowing growth.

On Thursday, the Pakistani rupee dropped to more than 82 to the dollar, continuing a slide that has seen it lose more than 30 percent of its value this year.

Also Thursday, prison guards seized grenades and handguns from Islamist militants after a protest at a jail in Dir in volatile northwestern Pakistan. Authorities said inmates were protesting poor food and a lack of decent space for meeting visitors.