Sat, Mar 14, 2009 - Page 5 News List

Toll in 'US' missile strike in Pakistan rises to 18

AFP , PESHAWAR, PAKISTAN

The death toll in a suspected US missile strike in northwest Pakistan yesterday rose to 18, with 50 others wounded, local officials said.

Two missiles fired by an unmanned drone destroyed a Taliban training camp in Kurram, officials said, one of seven semi-autonomous regions near Pakistan’s porous border with Afghanistan, where US troops are battling Taliban fighters.

“The death toll has risen to 18 as three more bodies were found and they [militants] are still sifting the rubble for more bodies,” a local administration official told reporters.

A senior security official said on condition of anonymity that 50 others, mostly militants, were injured and the dead included “foreigners” — a reference to al-Qaeda.

No high-value targets were believed to have died, the official told reporters.

Another security official said most of the dead were Afghani Taliban.

“The training center was run by local Taliban commander Fazal Saeed and training was underway at the time of the strike,” the official said.

Taliban militants sealed off the area after the strike late on Thursday.

More than 30 such strikes have killed over 330 people since August last year, shortly before key Washington ally Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari was elected.

The US military as a rule does not confirm drone attacks but the armed forces and the CIA operating in Afghanistan are the only forces that deploy drones in the region.

Thursday’s attack was the fifth missile strike blamed on unmanned US aircraft since US President Barack Obama came to power, dashing Pakistani hopes that the new administration would abandon the policy.

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