(AFP) – Nov 7, 2008
ISLAMABAD (AFP) — Up to 14 militants were killed on Friday when a suspected US missile strike destroyed an Al-Qaeda training camp in a tribal area of northwest Pakistan near the Afghan border, officials said.
Four missiles are thought to have been fired at the camp, in Kumsham village, some 35 kilometres (22 miles) south of Miranshah in North Waziristan province.
Security sources said the village is dominated by Wazir tribes and is near the border with South Waziristan, another hub of Taliban and Al-Qaeda operatives.
"Between 11 to 14 militants, mainly foreigners, were killed in the strike," a senior military official told AFP on condition of anonymity, using the Pakistani term to describe Al-Qaeda extremists.
Local official Attiq-ur Rehman also confirmed the strike but gave a different death toll. "There was a missile strike in the Kumsham village and it destroyed a compound, 13 people were killed," he said.
It was not immediately clear if there were any high-value targets among those killed, but sources said seven Al-Qaeda operatives and a local Taliban commander were among the dead.
An intelligence official, also speaking on condition of anonymity, added: "The strike successfully destroyed the camp."
"The militants were using the facility for training," another said.
A series of recent strikes against suspected Al-Qaeda and Taliban hideouts in Pakistan's tribal badlands bordering Afghanistan -- all blamed on unmanned CIA drones -- have raised tensions between Washington and Islamabad.
On Monday, Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari warned the new US commander for Iraq and Afghanistan, General David Petraeus, that the attacks were "counterproductive" and could harm the battle for hearts and minds here.
Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and the country's military top brass also told the visiting general that the United States should respect Pakistani sovereignty and territorial integrity.
Previous protests have seen Washington's ambassador to Islamabad, Anne Patterson, called in to the foreign ministry to hear the dissatisfaction of Pakistani officials.
Pakistan's national security adviser also reportedly made a personal protest to White House officials in Washington after a strike in September that claimed the lives of civilians.
Official sources, however, admit privately that successful US strikes benefit Pakistan's military efforts to eliminate foreign militants on its soil.
Last weekend, two separate strikes in the North Waziristan and South Waziristan areas killed at least 32 mainly Al-Qaeda operatives, according to Pakistani security sources.
One just outside the North Waziristan town of Mir Ali killed an Egyptian Al-Qaeda operative, Abu Jihad Al-Misri, described by the United States as the terror network's propaganda chief.
Pakistan is waiting to see how US president-elect Barack Obama will tackle militancy in Pakistan and Afghanistan once he takes office in January.
The Democratic senator from Illinois has said he favours continuing the strikes and increasing the number of US troops to crush an insurgency by Taliban and other militants in Afghanistan.
Pakistan rejects accusations that it is not doing enough to tackle the extremist threat within its own borders.
Last month the military said that some 1,500 rebels and 73 soldiers had died since an operation began in August against militants in the semi-autonomous Bajaur region of northwest Pakistan bordering Afghanistan.
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