Suspected US drone attack kills 24 in Pakistan (Second lead)

March 13th, 2009 - 5:20 pm ICT by IANS  

Islamabad, March 13 (DPA) A suspected US missile attack on a Taliban hideout in northwestern Pakistan killed at least 24 people, security officials and residents said Friday.
More than 40 people were injured in the attack late Thursday in Barjo village of the Kurram tribal district, which borders the Afghan province of Khost.

“Four missiles targeted a house where dozens of militants were residing,” a security official said, requesting anonymity. “Two US pilotless aircraft were seen flying in the area during the strike.”

“Taliban cordoned off the area and retrieved 15 bodies and 41 injured after hours-long rescue efforts last night,” the official added. Nine more bodies were pulled out of the rubble on Friday morning, taking the death toll to 24.

Most of the killed were believed to be locals, Afghan Taliban or Al Qaeda-linked foreign fighters.

A local resident, Nooruz Zaman, said the heavily guarded building was used by the Taliban as an ammunition depot and training centre. “There were also reports that Taliban had some hostages here,” he said in a telephone interview.

The camp, located about 20 km from the Afghan border, was destroyed in the attack.

A local Taliban commander, Fazal Saeed, who headed the training facility, was present in the building when the attack took place; however, it was not clear whether he was killed, said a local intelligence official who also spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Thursday’s attack was the second US drone strike on Kurram, where the Taliban have set up dozens of sanctuaries to launch cross-border attacks on international forces in Afghanistan.

In mid-February, 30 people, most of them Islamist insurgents, died in a similar drone attack in Kurram.

US forces, who said they are running out of patience over Pakistan’s failure to eliminate militant hideouts, have carried out about 36 air raids in the past four months, killing dozens of suspected Al Qaeda and Taliban fighters.

Pakistan, a key US ally in the international fight against terrorism, has repeatedly protested the strikes, saying they violate the country’s sovereignty and fuel public anger.

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