Candace Rondeaux / Washington Post – 2008-11-08 10:47:44
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (November 8, 2008) — At least 12 people were killed Friday after a missile slammed into a small village in northwest Pakistan in a suspected US air strike near the border of Afghanistan, according to a Pakistani security official.
The latest in a recent series of such incidents, the missile strike on the tribal village of Kam Sam in North Waziristan marked the first attack since Pakistan’s top defense official warned the newly appointed head of US Central Command to halt airborne assaults inside Pakistan.
US Gen. David Petraeus said during a visit to the Pakistani capital of Islamabad this week that he would heed the Pakistani government’s concerns about the US-led, cross-border strikes. But during a subsequent visit to Afghanistan this week, Petraeus touted the success of such attacks in eliminating top Taliban commanders. He has made no express promise to end the missile strikes.
Since August, more than 100 people have been killed in 18 suspected US air strikes in Pakistan’s restive tribal frontier lands along the border of Afghanistan. Pakistan’s largely ungoverned Federally Administered Tribal Areas have increasingly come to be seen by US officials as the pivot point in the war on Islamist insurgents in the region.
The majority of US missile strikes have targeted suspected insurgent safe havens in the tribal areas of North and South Waziristan, which have long been considered strongholds for a shadowy nexus of al Qaeda and Taliban fighters. North Waziristan has borne the brunt of the most recent cross-border attacks, including a controversial ground raid by US troops near the town of Angor Adda that killed up to 15 people Sept. 3.
Pakistani military officials declined to comment on the missile strike Friday in Kam Sam. Akhtar Munir, a spokesman for the Pakistani Ministry of Defense, also declined to comment Friday.
The United States generally does not comment on missile strikes in Pakistan and so far has neither confirmed nor denied responsibility in any of the latest attacks.
But a Pakistani intelligence official said more than a dozen people – including four foreign fighters – were killed in the strike, in which two missiles fired from an unmanned US aircraft crashed into Kam Sam about 10:30 a.m. The targeted area is near the border that divides North and South Waziristan, and alongside the eastern Afghan provinces of Paktika and Khost, where clashes between US-led forces and Taliban fighters have been particularly fierce in recent weeks.
The intelligence official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak publicly on such matters, said the identities of those killed were still unknown as of early Friday evening. He initially said 19 were killed in the strike but said other reports suggested the figure might be closer to 12 or 13.
US-led strikes have raised the ire of top Pakistani officials who say the attacks undermine US credibility in the region and fuel anti-American sentiment. On Monday, Pakistani Defense Minister Ahmad Mukhtar warned Petraeus that further strikes would provoke outrage among Pakistanis.
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