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Suspected US missile kills 12 in Pak: official

world Updated: Sep 12, 2008 11:23 IST
AFP
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A missile fired by a suspected US drone on Friday killed a dozen people in a Pakistani tribal area where American forces based in Afghanistan have been targeting al-Qaeda militants.

The missile hit a house on the outskirts of Miranshah, the main town in North Waziristan, a local official said, in the fifth such strike in two weeks targeting Taliban or Al-Qaeda fighters hiding out in the rugged tribal area.

"The pre-dawn strike destroyed the house and 12 people were killed," the official told AFP, with another 10 people wounded.

The 12 were believed to be rebel fighters, locals said, adding that the house hit in the Tol Khel area had been rented by an Afghan militant organisation, Al Badar, and was being used as an office.

Al Badar, backed by former guerrilla leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, has previously conducted operations against Afghan and international forces based across the border in Afghanistan, residents and a security official said.

Missile strikes targeting militants in Pakistan in recent weeks have been blamed on US-led coalition forces or CIA drones based in Afghanistan. Pakistan does not have missile-equipped drones.

Pakistan and the United States have been drawn into a dispute over the strikes, with Pakistan army chief General Ashfaq Kayani this week strongly criticising them and insisting no deal existed to allow foreign troops to conduct them.

As well as the missile strikes, Pakistan for the first time accused Afghanistan-based troops of carrying out a direct attack on its territory, a raid in the South Waziristan tribal zone that left 15 people dead.

US and Afghan officials say Pakistan's tribal areas are a safe haven for Al-Qaeda and Taliban militants who sneaked into the rugged region after the fall of the Taliban regime in late 2001.

Al-Qaeda chief Osama bin laden and his deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, are widely believed to be hiding in the mountainous region.

A separate strike in North Waziristan on Monday targeted but failed to hit top Taliban commander Jalaluddin Haqqani, but did kill four mid-level al-Qaeda operatives, a security official and a militant source said.

With tens of thousands of US and other international troops locked down in Afghanistan, US Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Admiral Michael Mullen said Wednesday he had ordered a new strategy covering both sides of the border with Pakistan.

The New York Times also reported that US President George W Bush in July secretly approved orders enabling US Special Operations forces to conduct ground operations in Pakistan without Islamabad's prior approval.