Suspected US drone strike in Pakistan kills 12 (Lead)

April 1st, 2009 - 4:23 pm ICT by IANS  

Taliban Islamabad, April 1 (DPA) A suspected US missile strike killed 12 Taliban militants Wednesday in Pakistan’s tribal region near the Afghan border, officials said.
Two missiles believed to have been fired by a US drone hit a compound in Khadezai village of the Orakzai Agency, one of seven semi-autonomous tribal districts known to serve as sanctuaries for Al-Qaeda and Taliban rebels.

“Twelve militants were confirmed dead but the toll could be even higher,” an intelligence official said on condition of anonymity. At least a dozen more people were also wounded in the drone attack, which was the first one in Orakzai.

Local administrators confirmed the strike, but gave no details.

The compound was allegedly being used as a training centre and also housed quarters for “foreigners”, a term used by Pakistani officials to describe militants of Arab and Central Asian origin.

Identities of those killed in the strike were not immediately known, as local insurgents cordoned off the area following the missile attack.

Orakzai, which does not share border with Afghanistan, is the stronghold of a senior aide of rebel commander Baitullah Mehsud, who confirmed Wednesday that his fighters stormed a police training school in the eastern city of Lahore March 30, killing seven recruits and one civilian.

Mehsud told reporters by phone from an undisclosed location that the Lahore assault and two other recent attacks were carried out by his group in revenge for US drone strikes.

Nearly three dozen US airstrikes have targeted suspected militant hideouts in Pakistan’s tribal region since August 2008, killing more than 300 people, including few lower-tier Al-Qaeda and Taliban fighters. Dozens of non-combatants have also been killed in the strikes.

Pakistan has opposed the attacks, calling them counter-productive because they fuel anti-US sentiments and increasing public support for militants in the tribal districts.

But US authorities say the war in Afghanistan cannot be won without eliminating the terrorist infrastructure in Pakistan’s lawless tribal region.

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