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Suspected US drone attack kills 30 in Pakistan

world Updated: Feb 14, 2009 19:25 IST

DPA
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A suspected US drone Saturday fired two missiles on a militant hideout in Pakistan's northwestern restive tribal region, killing at least 30 people, an intelligence official said.

Seven people were also injured in the attack in South Waziristan, a sanctuary of Taliban and al Qaeda militants launching cross-border attacks on international troops in Afghanistan.

"The missile strikes flattened the fort-like house in the Shawangai area," the intelligence official said on condition of anonymity. "Locals have so far pulled out 30 bodies, and more people are believed to be buried under the rubble."

More than 50 militants were in the house when the missiles struck and most of those killed were al Qaeda-linked fighters from Uzbekistan, the official said.

Taliban fighters surrounded the area after the attack and moved the wounded to a nearby hospital, the official added.

Hundreds of al Qaeda and Taliban militants took refuge in Pakistan's tribal region after the US-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001.

Over the years, the US has pressed the country to purge militant hideouts on its soil. Concerned over Pakistan's failure, it has recently intensified drone strikes inside Pakistan and eliminated dozens of al Qaeda and Taliban militants.

The air raids have also killed many civilians, fuelling public anger and forcing the government in Islamabad to repeatedly lodge formal protests with the US.

The issue was raised again early this week when the newly named US envoy for Pakistan and Afghanistan, Richard Holbrooke, met Pakistani leaders in Islamabad as part of his consultations in a review of American policy on the fight against the Taliban.

Saturday's attack came a day after secular insurgents threatened to kill a United Nations official kidnapped in Pakistan's southwestern province of Balochistan if their demands for the release of 141 Baloch woman held by Pakistan's intelligence agencies were not met in 72 hours.

John Solecki, the local head of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and a US national, appeared blindfolded in a video released by Baloch separatists.

"I am not feeling well," he said. "I am in trouble."