Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Four militants killed in US strike in Pakistan: officials

MIRANSHAH, Pakistan — At least four militants were killed in a US drone missile strike in Pakistan's tribal region near the Afghan border, officials said on Thursday.

The attack took place in Norak village of North Waziristan, an area where Washington says Islamist fighters are hiding out and planning attacks on Western troops stationed in neighbouring Afghanistan.

"It was a US drone attack which targeted a compound of a local tribesman, Musharraf Gul, in Norak village, killing four militants and wounding three others," a senior security official in the area told AFP.

He said two missiles were fired from a US drone at 1:30 am (2030 GMT Wednesday).

Another security official confirmed the attack and said "Taliban rebels were using the compound."

"It is not clear if there was any high-value target," he said, adding: "We also do not know yet the identity of the militants."

The latest attack came against the backdrop of a continuing military offensive in neighbouring South Waziristan, a stronghold of the feared Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).

Pakistan has vowed to quash Tehreek-e-Taliban in South Waziristan, part of the border area with Afghanistan that Washington calls the most dangerous place in the world because of the abundance of Al-Qaeda and Taliban fighters.

Pakistan launched its fierce air and ground offensive in the region on October 17, with 30,000 troops backed by fighter jets and helicopter gunships laying siege to TTP boltholes.

So far, the military says it has killed more than 390 militants since the operation began, with 37 troops losing their lives.

The long-anticipated assault into South Waziristan came after a spring offensive in and around the northwestern Swat valley, which the government declared a success in July. However, sporadic outbreaks of violence continue.

The US military does not, as a rule, confirm drone attacks, but its armed forces and the Central Intelligence Agency operating in Afghanistan are the only forces that deploy pilotless drones in the region.

The fatalities are impossible to verify independently because the targets are deep in Taliban-controlled territory.

Islamabad publicly opposes the US missile attacks, with 60 such strikes killing more than 580 people since August 2008.

But the Pakistani government welcomed the death of Taliban warlord Baitullah Mehsud on August 5.

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