Airstrike kills 13 in Pakistan
A suspected U.S. missile strike targeting a Taliban commander killed 13 people on the Pakistan side of the border with Afghanistan, officials said, indicating that America’s new general for the region was ignoring pleas by Islamabad for a halt to the strikes.
There has been a surge in U.S. cross-border attacks since August, angering Pakistani officials who say the raids are violating the country’s sovereignty and undermining its own anti-terrorism efforts in the border region.
Repairing ties while keeping pressure on Al Qaeda and Taliban commanders hiding in the lawless frontier area will be a key challenge for U.S. President-elect Barack Obama when he takes office in January.
Friday’s attack by an unmanned plane hit Kam Sam village in North Waziristan, a stronghold of militants blamed for deadly attacks on U.S. troops in Afghanistan and suicide blasts in Pakistan.
A Pakistani intelligence official said an agent who visited the village reported that 13 suspected militants had been killed. The official said the targeted house belonged to a local Taliban commander and that authorities were still trying to determine who was killed.
A government representative in the region also put the toll at 13. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the news media.
It was the first suspected U.S. attack since Oct. 31, when Gen. David Petraeus became head of Central Command, taking overall charge of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He visited both Pakistan and Afghanistan this week.
The rugged, mountainous region where the Pakistani government has never had much control is considered a likely hiding place for Osama bin Laden and his No. 2, Ayman Zawahri.
There have been at least 18 missile strikes in Pakistan since August, more than three times as many as in 2007, apparently reflecting U.S. frustration over insufficient action by Islamabad against extremists along the border.