INTEL OFFICIALS: US MISSILES KILL 17 IN PAKISTAN
By RASOOL DAWAR and ISHTIAQ MAHSUD
posted: 1 HOUR 13 MINUTES AGO
MIR ALI, Pakistan -Two suspected U.S. missile strikes, one using multiple drones, killed 17 people in a Pakistani tribal region along the Afghan border Thursday, local intelligence officials said.
The officials said the second, bloodier attack involved five drones and 10 missiles — an unusually intense bombardment.
The missiles rained on North Waziristan, considered a safe haven for many militants including groups determined to push the U.S. and NATO out of Afghanistan. The strikes in North Waziristan are especially sensitive because they risk angering Afghan-focused militant groups who have agreed to be neutral as Islamabad cracks down on Taliban fighters who have threatened the Pakistani state.
Officials said in the first strike, two missiles hit a car carrying two suspected insurgents in Dosali village. Later Thursday, the 10 missiles fired by five drones killed 15 people in two compounds in the Ambarshaga area. At least seven of the dead were foreigners, the officials said on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to media.
It was not immediately clear who or what was targeted in the strike.
The U.S. has carried out more than 40 such missile strikes this year, killing scores of suspected al-Qaida and Taliban militants, but angering many Pakistanis who point to the resulting civilian casualties. Pakistan regularly condemns the attacks as violations of its sovereignty, but it is believed to secretly aid the U.S. campaign.
The U.S. rarely acknowledges the covert, CIA-run missile program. But when officials have confirmed the attacks, they say it is a crucial tool and note that the missiles have slain several top al-Qaida operatives as well as Pakistani Taliban chief Baitullah Mehsud.
The Pakistani intelligence officials on Thursday confirmed that the two strikes hit territory controlled by Hafiz Gul Bahadur, a warlord whose fighters focus on pushing out Western troops in Afghanistan. Bahadur has agreed to stay out of the way as the Pakistani army has waged an offensive in neighboring South Waziristan against the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan — or Pakistani Taliban Movement.
The Pakistani Taliban have carried out scores of attacks against Pakistani security and government targets, spurring the army offensive. Even so, many of the group's leaders are believed to have fled the army onslaught of recent weeks, finding refuge elsewhere in the tribal belt, including North Waziristan.
Analysts have warned that U.S. missile strikes could upset the deals with Bahadur, and lead him to aid the Pakistani Taliban against the military. Still, a number of missile strikes have been carried out in the region in recent weeks and there's no evidence that has happened just yet. The U.S. also is unlikely to hold off if it has intelligence on the whereabouts of a high-value target.