Suspected US missiles slammed into two villages close to the Afghan border, killing 27 people including an Arab al-Qaida operative and other foreign militants, intelligence officials said.
Washington is suspected of launching at least 17 missile strikes inside northwestern Pakistan since August, an unprecedented surge that is straining its seven-year alliance with the nuclear armed nation at a time of soaring violence and mounting economic problems. The strikes reflect US frustration at what it says is Pakistani inaction against extremists blamed for planning attacks in Afghanistan and Pakistan _ and perhaps Sept. 11-style terror strikes in the West.
The al-Qaida member killed in Friday's airstrikes was identified as Abu Kasha Iraqi, the officials said.
He had been living in Pakistan's tribal region for about three years, from where he had been organizing attacks on foreign forces in neighboring Afghanistan, they said on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media. Scores of foreign al-Qaida members are believed to be hiding out in the lawless border area, which is considered a likely hiding place for Osama bin Laden.
Abu Kasha Iraqi was among 20 people killed when two missiles hit a house and a car in Mir Ali village in North Waziristan after drones had been flying overhead for several hours, the officials said, citing reports from agents and informers in the area. Around two hours later, a second set of missiles hit a village in South Waziristan, killing seven people, including an unspecified number of foreign fighters, the officials said.
The United States rarely confirms or denies firing the missiles _ which are launched from unmanned planes _ and the identities of those killed are only occasionally made public. Locals frequently say civilians, sometimes women and children, are among the dead. Pakistan says the strikes _ and a highly unusual ground raid involving U.S. commandos in September _ are violations of its sovereignty and insists it is tackling the militants, pointing out an ongoing military offensive just north of Waziristan that has killed some 1,500 insurgents.