x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Pakistan condemns suspected US missile strike

The Pakistani president urges the US to halt the attacks a day after 13 people are killed.

ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN // Pakistan condemned a suspected US missile strike that killed 13 people near the Afghan border and indicated that American's new general for the region is pressing on with attacks on Taliban and al Qa'eda targets in Pakistani territory. A surge in US cross-border attacks since August has angered Pakistani officials who say the raids are violating the nuclear-armed country's sovereignty and undermining its own anti-terror war in the border region.

"The US administration's reluctance to consider the repercussions of such operations is damaging the whole purpose of global efforts to combat terrorism," the Pakistani information minister Sherry Rehman said. Ms Rehman said in a statement yesterday that the Pakistani president Asif Ali Zardari was urging Washington to halt the attacks. It was unclear if Mr Zardari raised the matter in an overnight telephone call with the US President-elect Barack Obama.

Repairing strained ties while keeping pressure on militants hiding in the lawless frontier area will be a key challenge for Mr Obama when he takes office in January. Yesterday's attack by an unmanned plane took place in Kam Sam village in the North Waziristan region, a stronghold of militants blamed for killing US troops in Afghanistan and suicide blasts within Pakistan. A Pakistani intelligence official said an agent who visited the village reported that 13 suspected militants had died. The official said the targeted house belonged to a local Taliban commander and that authorities were still trying to determine who exactly was killed. A government representative in the region also put the toll at 13.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to speak to the media. It was the first suspected American attack since the installation of Gen David Petraeus as head of the US Central Command on Oct 31, giving him overall command of the wars in both Iraq and Afghanistan. He visited Pakistan and Afghanistan this past week. In an interview close to the Afghan capital on Thursday, Gen Petraeus said the border strikes had killed three "extremist leaders" in recent months and weeks. He did not identify the men.

The rugged, mountainous region where the government has never had much control is considered a likely hiding place for Osama bin Laden and his deputy Ayman al Zawahri. At least 18 missile strikes have hit Pakistan since August, more than three times as many as in 2007, apparently reflecting US frustration at insufficient action by Islamabad against extremists along the border. Pakistan leaders said they told Gen Petraeus to call an immediate halt to the strikes, which they said were angering locals, making it more difficult to get their co-operation in ongoing military offensives there.

Gen Petraeus said he would "take on board" what they said, but Pakistani officials said he gave them no promise the attacks would stop. Pakistan's recently elected leaders have little leverage with the United States to force it to stop the strikes because they desperately need Washington's help to get the country out of a crushing economic crisis. *AP