Officials: Missile strike kills 9 in Pakistan

August 13, 2008 7:15:05 AM PDT
A missile strike targeting an alleged militant gathering point killed at least nine people, including foreigners, in northwestern Pakistan, military and intelligence officials said Wednesday. At least four missiles struck a compound in a remote and mountainous area near Angore Adda in the South Waziristan tribal region late Tuesday, the officials told The Associated Press.

The tribal regions are considered havens for al-Qaida and Taliban-linked militants, and the U.S. has pushed Pakistan to root out insurgents in those semiautonomous areas bordering Afghanistan.

The military official said at least nine people died. Two intelligence officials said between 22 and 25 people died, including Arabs, Turkmen and Pakistani militants in what they believed was a U.S. missile strike launched from Afghanistan.

They said the camp is linked to the militant group of Afghan warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, whose followers are fighting U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan. They said it was not clear if the camp leader, an Afghan identified as Commander Zangeer, or senior militants were killed.

The intelligence officials said their information on the attack came from local informants.

A U.S. military spokesman in Afghanistan denied involvement. "I've got no reports of any border incidents, any cross-border incidents, so it wasn't us," U.S. 1st Lt. Nathan Perry said.

A denial does not rule out U.S. involvement, including by the CIA, which is believed to have conducted previous such strikes using Predator drones.

Pakistan has previously called such strikes violations of its sovereignty, but on Wednesday, Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammed Sadiq said he had no official information on the latest one.

Pakistan's army spokesman was not immediately available to comment. The other officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to media.

Suspected U.S. missile strikes have killed at least two senior al-Qaida militants inside Pakistan this year, including an renowned Egyptian explosives and poison expert, Abu Khabab al-Masri, who died in a strike in South Waziristan in late July.

Meanwhile, unknown gunmen attacked the headquarters of a banned militant group in the Khyber tribal region early Wednesday and shot dead its leader, his spokesman said.

Namdar died of his wounds after he was shifted to a local hospital from the shooting in Barqambarkhel, about seven miles from the region's main town of Bara, Munsaf Khan said.

Namdar's supporters captured two suspects after the shooting, Khan said. He refused to identify the suspects and said it was too early to say who was behind the attack.

Government officials could not immediately be reached for comment.

The Vice and Virtue Movement was among three groups banned in June when security forces launched an operation to curb militancy and lawlessness in Khyber, amid concern that the main northwestern city of Peshawar could be under threat. A key supply route for U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan snakes through the region.


Associated Press Writer Riaz Khan contributed to this report from Peshawar.