Fri, Jan 15, 2010 - Page 5 News List

US drone missile strike kills 10

‘MOSTLY MILITANTS’Pakistani Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud was said to have been in the area at the time of the attack, but a spokesman said he left before it began


Missiles fired by US drone aircraft hit a militant training camp in northwest Pakistan yesterday, killing at least 10 people, officials said, as Washington and Islamabad clash over the strikes.

It was the seventh bombing raid by unmanned US planes this month as Pakistan sees a surge in the strikes, which fuel anti-US sentiment in the nuclear-armed Muslim nation and draw public condemnation from the government.

US officials say the attacks are necessary to protect NATO troops fighting over the border in ­Afghanistan, and are urging Pakistan to do more to dismantle militant safe havens carved out along the lawless frontier.

Yesterday’s assault took place in Pasalkot village in a remote area of North Waziristan and very close to the border with South Waziristan, where Pakistan’s military are battling Taliban fighters, officials said.

“It was a US drone strike which took place between 7am and 8am. At least 10 people, mostly militants, have been killed in the missile strike. The toll is likely to rise,” a local intelligence official said.

“The targeted site was a militant training camp,” he said.

It was not immediately clear if any senior insurgents had been killed.

A senior security official confirmed the death toll, and said four missiles were fired from unmanned planes in the remote area.

All seven strikes this month have hit North Waziristan, a bastion of al-Qaeda fighters, the Taliban and the Haqqani network which launches attacks on the 113,000 US and NATO troops fighting the Taliban in neighboring Afghanistan.

The administration of US President Barack Obama has put Pakistan at the heart of its fight against al-Qaeda and Islamist extremists and says the war in Afghanistan cannot be won without Islamabad’s help, but tensions simmer.

A US senator on Wednesday scolded Pakistan’s leaders for privately supporting US drone strikes while publicly denouncing them.

“What troubles me is the public attack on these drone attacks when at the same time they’ve privately obviously not told us that we must stop,” said Senator Carl Levin, chairman of the US Senate Armed Services Committee.

Pakistan’s leaders “not only understand and acquiesce, but in many cases privately support the drone attacks,” Levin said, adding that “the minimum we should expect is a silence on their part rather than a public attack on us.”

Meanwhile, Pakistani Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud was in the area of the US drone strike killed, but left before the missiles hit, a militant spokesman said.

“Hakimullah Mehsud was present at the same place in Shaktoi where the drone attack took place,” Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan spokesman Azam Tariq said by telephone. “But he had left the place already when the drone attack took place. He is alive and completely safe.”

Tariq did not say when Mehsud left the area.

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