Wednesday, November 19, 2008

American missiles hit Pakistan village

Al Jazeera, Nov 19, 2008

At least four people have been killed after a suspected US missile attack struck the North West Frontier province of Pakistan, near the Afghan border, security officials said.

A senior security official told the AFP news agency on Wednesday that “the strike overnight destroyed the house of a tribesman Sakhi Mohammad in the Bannu district”.

“At least two foreigners were among five killed,” the official said.

Pakistani security forces often use the term “foreigners” to refer to suspected al-Qaeda or Taliban fighters.

Pakistani officials said the missiles were launched from Afghanistan, where at least 32,000 US troops are fighting the Taliban and other fighters.

Officials also said that several other people were wounded in the attack in Jani Khel, a city in the northwestern district of Bannu just outside the tribal areas where al-Qada and Taliban fighters have found refuge in recent years.

Al Jazeera’s Kamal Hyder in Islamabad said that locals believe that the US was involved in the attack, which comes at a time when “…the Pakistani military chief was visiting Brussels to brief Nato commanders on his country’s apprehensions regarding drone attacks that are shifting public opinion against the US and Pakistani government”.

“There was a report recently in the Washington Post that the Americans had a tacit agreement that they would be able to use Pakistani airspace wherever they thought there were targets,” Hyder reported.

“While the government has been denying that there has been any secret agreement with the Americans, they have not been able to come out with a formula to stop such attacks, and that is likely to cause considerable anger within Pakistan because its own military forces are not in a position to defend its citizens within its territory.”

US ‘blamed’

The US has been blamed for at least 20 missile attacks and a ground assault in northwest Pakistan since mid-August.

Meanwhile, all the attacks since August have been in villages in north and south Waziristan, two semiautonomous tribal regions where the government has a very limited presence.

Islamabad has protested over the raids, saying they are a violation of the country’s sovereignty.

US officers in Afghanistan have stressed improved Pakistani co-operation in squeezing fighters nested along the border.

Colonel John Spiszer, the US commander in northeast Afghanistan, said that pressure on Aghanistan and Pakistan will eventually mean that fighters will be “running out of options on places to go”.

But Pakistani officials said the US missile strikes are counterproductive because they often kill civilians and deepen anti-American and anti-government sentiment.

However, General David Petraeus, the US chief commander, defended them, saying at least three senior fighters, whom he did not identify, have been killed in recent months in the attacks.

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