Parliament passed resolutions condemning an American-led attack in Pakistani territory after the government summoned the US ambassador to protest the unusually bold raid in a troubled border region that was hit by a deadly missile strike on Thursday.
The chorus of criticism grew two days before the widower of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto is expected to be chosen as president in a vote by legislators.
A spokesman for Asif Ali Zardari condemned Wednesday’s pre-dawn assault in the South Waziristan tribal region. It killed at least 15 people, officials say, and was the first known foreign ground assault in Pakistan against a Taliban haven.
But Zardari also said Pakistan stands with the US against international terrorism.
Zardari is expected to pursue a pro-US policy similar to that of former President Pervez Musharraf and continue to go after Islamic militants accused of crossing into Afghanistan to attack the US-led international security force there.
An American official, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of cross-border operations, confirmed to The Associated Press that US troops conducted the raid about 1.5 km from the Afghan border.
It was unclear whether any extremist leader was killed or captured. Pakistan’s border region is considered a likely hiding place for Osama bin Laden and Al Qaida’s No. 2 leader, Ayman al-Zawahri.
Two Pakistani intelligence officials said a missile strike was suspected in a blast on Thursday that killed four people in North Waziristan. Area resident Azeemullah Wazir said the explosion destroyed a house known to host foreigners. He said he heard three blasts and later saw Taliban militants surround the site. The US has been suspected in previous missile strikes in Pakistani territory.
Elsewhere in the volatile northwest, a firefight and airstrikes killed 37 Islamic militants on Wednesday, officials said. Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi condemned Wednesday’s attack, saying “no important terrorist or high-value target” was killed but that innocent citizens, including women and children were “targeted.”
The ministry's spokesman said officials had no indication that US forces had captured anyone.
Pakistan army spokesman Major General Athar Abbas, citing witness and intelligence reports, said troops flew in on at least one big CH-47 Chinook transport helicopter, blasted their way into several houses and gunned down men they found there.
Army and intelligence officials as well as residents said 15 people died, while the provincial governor said 20 civilians, including women and children, were killed.
Pakistan’s Senate and National Assembly passed resolutions Thursday condemning the attack.
In the past, similar protests over suspected US missile attacks in Pakistani territory have led to little tangible effect on America’s relationship with Pakistan, which has received billions of dollars from Washington for its aid in the US-led war on terrorism.
Still, the operation in South Waziristan’s Angoor Ada area threatened to complicate an already difficult relationship. US commanders have been pushing Pakistan to root out militants.
American officials say destroying militant sanctuaries in Pakistani tribal regions is key to defeating Taliban-led militants in Afghanistan, whose insurgency has strengthened every year since 2001, when the fundamentalist militia was ousted for harboring bin Laden.