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Pakistan urges Obama to halt missile attacks

Pakistan has urged Barack Obama to halt US missile strikes on al-Qaida strongholds near the Afghan border, saying civilians have been killed in attacks since the new American president's inauguration.

world Updated: Jan 25, 2009 08:39 IST

Pakistan has urged Barack Obama to halt US missile strikes on al-Qaida strongholds near the Afghan border, saying civilians have been killed in attacks since the new American president's inauguration.

Pakistani security officials said eight suspected foreign militants, including an Egyptian al-Qaida operative, were among 22 people killed in Friday's twin strikes in the Waziristan region. But the Foreign Ministry said on Saturday that the attacks by unmanned aircraft also killed an unspecified number of civilians and that it had informed US officials of its "great concern." "With the advent of the new US administration, it is Pakistan's sincere hope that the United States will review its policy and adopt a more holistic and integrated approach toward dealing with the issue of terrorism and extremism," the ministry said in a statement.

The United States does not directly acknowledge firing the missiles, which are believed to be mostly fired from drones operated by the CIA and launched from neighboring Afghanistan. Obama has not commented on the missile strikes. However, he has made the war in Afghanistan and the intertwined al-Qaida fight in Pakistan a foreign policy priority. Few observers expect him to ditch a tactic that US officials say has killed a string of militant leaders behind the insurgency in Afghanistan _ and who had perhaps been plotting terrorist attacks in the West. Pakistani leaders complain that the more than 30 missile strikes since August have fanned anti-American sentiment and undermined the government's own efforts to counter Islamic militants. But their protests have had few practical consequences, fueling speculation that Islamabad's cash-strapped, pro-US government has given tacit approval in return for political and financial support from Washington.

Pakistan's government has little control over the border region, which is considered a likely hiding place for al-Qaida chief Osama bin Laden and other terrorist leaders.

Three intelligence officials told The Associated Press that funerals were held on Saturday for nine Pakistanis killed a day earlier in Zharki, a village in North Waziristan.

The officials, citing reports from field agents and residents, said Taliban fighters had removed the bodies of five suspected foreign militants who also died in the first missile strike. Initial reports put the death toll from that attack at 10. A senior security official in the capital, Islamabad, identified one of the slain men as Mustafa al-Misri, a suspected al-Qaida operative. He said it was unclear if the man was a significant figure.

The second strike hit a house in South Waziristan. Residents and security officials say eight people died in the village of Gangi Khel.

The security officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.