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'US drone attack kills 14 in Pakistan'

US drones fired a barrage of 12 missiles, destroying a training camp for Islamist fighters in Pakistan's tribal belt and killing 14 militants on Tuesday, security officials said.

world Updated: May 11, 2010 10:44 IST
Hasbanullah Khan
Hasbanullah Khan

US drones fired a barrage of 12 missiles, destroying a training camp for Islamist fighters in Pakistan's tribal belt and killing 14 militants on Tuesday, security officials said.

It was the second strike in the same mountainous area close to the Afghan border since Sunday, when the United States accused the Pakistani Taliban of being behind a plot to detonate a car bomb in Times Square 10 days ago.

The training camp was run by militants attached to Taliban-linked Afghan warlord Hafiz Gul Bahadur, who is reputed to control up to 2,000 fighters who attack US-led forces over the border in Afghanistan, officials said.

The compound was in the Lowara Mandi area of North Waziristan district, seen as a fortress of Taliban and Al-Qaeda-linked militants in Pakistan's semi-autonomous tribal badlands.

"According to the latest reports we have, a total of 14 militants were killed. They targeted a compound and vehicles parked outside the house," one senior Pakistani security official told AFP on condition of anonymity.

Pakistani officials earlier put the death toll at six, saying that US drones carried out a series of strikes on the compound, firing at least 12 missiles.

The nationalities of the dead were not immediately clear, nor were there any information on any possible high-value targets.

A local official described the training camp at Inzarkas village as a collection of temporary mud-brick homes about 50 kilometres (30 miles) west of Miranshah, the main town in North Waziristan.

The botched May 1 New York bomb plot, which US officials say Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan helped facilitate, has thrown the spotlight on Islamist militant networks dug into the tribal belt outside government control.

Washington has branded the rugged district a global headquarters of Al-Qaeda and the most dangerous place on earth, where officials say Islamist extremists hatch attacks on US-led troops fighting in Afghanistan and on cities abroad.

The covert US drone campaign in Pakistan's northwestern tribal belt killed Pakistani Taliban founder Baitullah Mehsud last August.

But the United States has now upped the pressure on Pakistan to crack down on Islamist havens along the Afghan border following the arrest of the New York bomb suspect, Pakistani-American Faisal Shahzad, last week.

He was detained on board a plane, as it was about to take off for Dubai and has reportedly told investigators he was trained in bomb making in Waziristan.

General Stanley McChrystal, the US commander in Afghanistan, reportedly urged Pakistan's army chief to launch an operation in North Waziristan, where the United States has increased drone strikes significantly this year.

Pakistani military officials have not ruled out an offensive in North Waziristan, but argue that gains elsewhere need to be consolidated otherwise troops would be stretched too thin.

The United States said Monday it was satisfied with Pakistan's cooperation in the investigation of the Times Square bomb plot.

State Department spokesman Philip Crowley said the Pakistani government had already acted aggressively against the Taliban and the United States would "evaluate whether additional steps" were necessary.

More than 900 people have been killed in nearly 100 drone strikes in Pakistan since August 2008. The bombing raids fuel anti-American sentiment in Muslim Pakistan and draw public condemnation from the government.

First Published: May 11, 2010 10:43 IST