US commandos kill 20 in Pakistan: official (Second lead)

September 3rd, 2008 - 5:07 pm ICT by IANS  

Islamabad, Sep 3 (DPA) US commandos killed at least 20 people including women and children in a cross-border raid Wednesday in Pakistan’s tribal region, a high-ranking government official said.”Innocent citizens of Pakistan including women and children were martyred,” Owais Ahmed Ghani, the governor of the North-Western Frontier Province, said in a statement.

According to Ghani, commandos based in Afghanistan supported by three helicopter gunships carried out the “outrageous” attack in the Angor Adda area of the South Waziristan tribal district.

“This is a direct assault on the sovereignty of Pakistan and the people of Pakistan expect that the armed forces would rise to defend the sovereignty of the country and give a befitting reply to all such attacks,” he said.

“The government will try its best to protect its citizens from such cowardly attacks in the days to come,” Ghani said.

Local residents said the pre-dawn blitz targeted the house of a tribesman, Payo Jan Wazir, in Birmal village. Some said the villagers were preparing to go on a Ramadan fast when the attack came at around 3 a.m.

“Ten people, including three women and two children, died during the action at Wazir’s house,” said a local resident.

The gunfire and successive blasts made the people in the surrounding houses come out of their homes in panic. The foreign troops opened fire and killed at least five more civilians, the sources said. Several villagers were wounded.

A local security official said the US forces might have raided the compound to seize or kill some high-value target, as the area is a known sanctuary for Al Qaeda militants.

Pakistan’s top security official, Rehman Malik, told reporters Monday that government troops had recently narrowly missed an opportunity to capture al-Qaeda’s second-in-command Ayman al-Zawahiri.

The reported action in South Waziristan was the first involving US ground troops there, although the US has carried out several missile attacks and airstrikes in recent months on suspected militant hideouts.

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