Pakistan airstrike 'kill scores of civilians'

The attack near the Afghan border risks undercutting public support for the fight against militants

The government official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject, said authorities had already handed out the equivalent of $125,000 in compensation to families of the victims in a remote village in the Khyber tribal area.



Also today, a village elder claimed 13 civilians had been killed in U.S. missile strike last night elsewhere in the northwest, contesting accounts by Pakistani security officials that four militants were killed.



Pakistan's tribal regions are largely out of bounds for reporters and dangerous to visit because of the likelihood of being abducted by militants, who still control much of the area, making it very difficult to verify casualty figures.



Army spokesman Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas on Monday denied that any of the dead in the Pakistani air force attack were civilians, saying the army had intelligence that militants were gathering at the site of the strike. The victims were initially reported to be suspected militants. The military regularly reports killing scores of militants in airstrikes in the northwest, but rarely says it is responsible for civilian deaths.



The Pakistani army, under heavy pressure from the United States, has moved forcefully against Taliban and al-Qaida militants in the northwest over the last 18 months. The insurgents have been blamed for attacks on international troops across the border in Afghanistan as well as scores of attacks within Pakistan.



Pakistani politicians have either supported the operations or avoiding criticizing them, something of a change from several years ago when many backed negotiations with the insurgents. But civilian casualties threaten to undermine support for the offensives, both in the northwest and in the rest of Pakistan, where many people do not like the idea of the army being deployed against fellow Muslims.



The offensives have displaced more than 1 million people, and one newspaper said Tuesday that the deaths of innocents would strengthen support for the Taliban.



Two survivors interviewed Tuesday in a hospital in the main northwestern city of Peshawar gave the first detailed account of the attack, which took place Saturday morning.



They said most of the victims were killed when they were trying to rescue people trapped by an earlier strike on the house of a village elder.



"This house was bombed on absolutely wrong information," said Khanan Gul Khan, a resident of the village who was visiting a relative in the hospital. "This area has nothing to do with militants."



Khan said many of the families in the village, Sara Walla, had sons serving in the security forces and that it had a history of cooperating with the army. He said the owner of the house that was bombed initially, Hamid Khan, had two sons serving in the paramilitary Frontier Corps.



He said 68 people were killed and many more wounded. The political official said Monday that the families of 71 victims had been compensated, but did not identify them.



Dilla Baz Khan suffered a fractured arm in the second attack, which he said came around two hours after the first one.



"We were about to pull out a lady from the rubble when another jet came and bombed us," he said from the orthopedic ward of the Hayatabad medical complex in Peshawar. "Then I lost consciousness."



He said an official from the Khyber political administration visited him Monday and gave him $220 for the loss of four relatives, including his brother. "He said we are sorry for this, and we pray for your early recovery," he said.



Brief reports of significant civilian casualties in the strike Saturday have appeared in the local media in recent days, but have not attracted much attention or criticism. The army, while nominally under civilian control, is the most powerful institution in the country.



An editorial Tuesday in Dawn, a respected English-language daily, said it was clear that the dead had no links to the militants and that the incident "strengthens the hands of the Taliban." It said around 60 people were killed.



The United States also regularly attacks al-Qaida and Taliban targets in northwest Pakistan with missiles fired from unmanned drones. American officials do not acknowledge being behind the attacks, which are credited with killing scores of insurgents. Critics say those attacks also regularly claim civilian lives.



Pakistan intelligence officials, speaking on customary condition of anonymity, said a missile attack late Monday close to the town of Miran Shah in North Waziristan killed four suspected militants. Noor Gul, a resident in the village, disputed that, saying 13 civilians, including two children, were killed.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: PMLD Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: PMLD Teacher A specialist primary school i...

Recruitment Genius: Online Media Sales Trainee

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Now our rapidly expanding and A...

Recruitment Genius: Public House Manager / Management Couples

£15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about great ...

Recruitment Genius: Production Planner

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Day In a Page

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

Dame Harriet Walter interview

The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

Bill Granger's winter salads

Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links