Fri, Oct 24, 2008 - Page 5 News List

US suspected in Pakistan missile strike

SUSPICIOUS The cross-border attacks have angered many of the nation’s lawmakers, and the pro-US government has protested against them as violations of its sovereignty


Suspected US missiles struck a Taliban-linked school in northwestern Pakistan yesterday, killing nine people, intelligence officials said, in an apparent sign of US frustration with the country’s anti-terror efforts.

The strike came hours after parliament warned against any “incursions” on Pakistani soil in a resolution that also called for reviewing the national security strategy and making dialogue with militants the top priority.

Nuclear-armed Pakistan is also in the midst of an economic crisis brought on by high fuel prices, dwindling foreign investment, soaring inflation and militant violence.

Late on Wednesday, the government formally requested financial help from the IMF to avoid a possible loan default, a decision that could cost the administration political support at home.

The suspected US missiles hit the religious school on the outskirts of Miran Shah, the main town in the North Waziristan region, four intelligence officials said.

Relying on informants and agents in the area, two officials said at least nine people were killed, including four pulled lifeless from the rubble hours after the strike, and two others were wounded.

The religious school belongs to a local pro-Taliban cleric who has been linked to veteran Taliban commander Jalaluddin Haqqani, considered a top foe of the US, the intelligence officials said.

They gave the information on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.

Militants in the northwest are blamed for rising attacks on US and NATO forces in neighboring Afghanistan as well as surging suicide attacks within Pakistan.

The cross-border US missile attacks have angered many Pakistani lawmakers, and the pro-US government has protested them as violations of the country’s sovereignty.

The parliamentary resolution was vague and had few details, apparently a result of political compromise after two weeks of closed-door debate.

It did not directly mention two of the most divisive issues surrounding the terror fight: army offensives in the northwest and calls for unconditional talks with the extremists.

The major opposition parties recognize the need for military action against the insurgents, but rarely express it forcefully because they want to maintain support among ordinary Pakistanis who are deeply suspicious of the war.

The seven-month-old government — which is desperate for lawmakers to support its military offensive — hailed the 14-point document as a “a historic moment for the country.”

“This will definitely help to improve the situation and to rid the country of the menace of terrorism,” Information Minister Sherry Rehman said.

The resolution calls for an “independent foreign policy,” a sign of wariness of American influence. But it also states Pakistan will not let its soil be used for terrorist attacks elsewhere — a nod to US complaints about militants hiding in northwestern Pakistan.

The resolution also alludes to the US missile attacks, stating that Pakistan “stands united against any incursions and invasions of the homeland, and calls upon the government to deal with it effectively.”

While saying dialogue “must now be the highest priority,” it stipulates that talks should be pursued with those “elements” willing to follow the constitution and the “rule of law.”

The Pakistani army is engaged in two major offensives in the northwest — one in the Swat Valley and one in the Bajur tribal area.

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