Fri, Oct 03, 2008 - Page 5 News List

US ‘hurting’ fight against terror

TOO DANGEROUS In a sign of growing tensions, the UK ordered children of its diplomats in Pakistan to be evacuated to a location safe from militant violence


Pakistan’s foreign minister said US military operations in Pakistani territory undermine efforts to fight terrorism, after a suspected US missile strike in the Muslim nation’s northwest reportedly killed six people.

Meanwhile, in a sign of growing international concern about the militant threat here, the UK said the children of its diplomats in Pakistan have been ordered to leave the country. The decision came in the wake of the deadly Sept. 20 Marriott Hotel bombing in Islamabad.

In a Wednesday speech at Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Pakistan’s top diplomat described his government’s efforts to use peace talks, economic development and force in an overall strategy to reduce extremism.

Shah Mahmood Qureshi said Pakistan would also use a media campaign to raise public support for fighting militancy. But he warned that US strikes on Pakistan’s northwest could hamper its efforts, despite his government’s public denunciation of such operations.

“It hurts us even more when the transgressor is our friend and ally, the US,” the foreign minister said. “If there are actions to be taken, the actions will be taken by Pakistan.”

The suspected US missile strike on Tuesday, however, indicated that Washington was moving ahead with cross-border raids despite Pakistani protests. The US has recently ramped up such operations against Taliban and al-Qaeda militants in Pakistan’s border zone with Afghanistan — a region considered a likely hiding place for al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

In the late Tuesday attack along the border, missiles said to have been fired by a US drone reportedly struck a Taliban commander’s home near Mir Ali, a town in North Waziristan, said two Pakistani intelligence officials who asked for anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to media.

Citing reports from their field agents, the officials said on Wednesday that six people died, but did not identify any of the victims.

US officials in Afghanistan or Washington rarely acknowledge the attacks.

Pakistan says the attacks often result in civilian casualties and serve to fan extremism. US officials complain that Pakistan is unwilling or unable to act against the militants.

Militants in the border region are blamed for rising attacks on US troops in Afghanistan and attacks in Pakistan, including the bombing of the Marriott that killed at least 54 people.

Britain said children of its diplomats in Pakistan should be sent back home, citing a security review following the hotel blast. About 60 children under age 8 from families of British-based embassy staff are to leave, the British Foreign Office said.

In Spain, meanwhile, a document marked confidential and bearing the official seal of Spain’s Defense Ministry alleged that Pakistan’s spy service helped arm Taliban insurgents in 2005 for assassination plots against Afghan government officials.

Chief Pakistani army spokesman Major General Athar Abbas said the report was “baseless, unfounded and part of a malicious, well-orchestrated propaganda campaign to malign” the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) spy agency.

The document, which surfaced just after Pakistan’s military chief chose a new head of the spy agency, also alleged that Pakistan might have provided training and intelligence to the Taliban in camps set up on Pakistani soil.

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