x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

14 dead in suspected US missile strike

Four missiles are thought to have been fired at a camp in north-west Pakistan near the Afghan border.

ISLAMABAD // Up to 14 militants were killed today when a suspected US missile strike destroyed an al Qa'eda training camp in a tribal area of north-west Pakistan near the Afghan border, officials said. Four missiles are thought to have been fired at the camp, in Kumsham village, some 35km 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 Qa'eda operatives.

"Between 11 to 14 militants, mainly foreigners, were killed in the strike," a senior military official said on condition of anonymity, using a Pakistani term to describe al Qa'eda extremists. It was not immediately clear if there were any high-value targets among those killed, sources added. An intelligence official, also speaking on condition of anonymity, added: "The strike successfully destroyed the camp."

A series of recent strikes against suspected al Qa'eda 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, the Pakistani president Asif Ali Zardari warned the new US commander for Iraq and Afghanistan, Gen David Petraeus, that the attacks were "counterproductive" and could harm the battle for hearts and minds here. The 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. And 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 Qa'eda operatives, according to Pakistani security sources. One just outside the North Waziristan town of Mir Ali killed an Egyptian al Qa'eda operative, Abu Jihad Al-Misri, described by the United States as the militant network's propaganda chief. Pakistan is waiting to see how the 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 semiautonomous Bajaur region of north-west Pakistan bordering Afghanistan. *AFP