US missile strike on Pakistan border kills 13

Monday 10 February 2014 16:31
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The US is suspected of carrying out more than three dozen such strikes over the past year in Pakistan near the border, from where militants often launch attacks against US and Nato troops in Afghanistan.

The drone attacks have caused tension with the Pakistani government, which frequently complains about the US carrying out strikes in its territory.

The home targeted just after dawn today is in North Waziristan, one of Pakistan's tribal regions that is believed to be an important base for al Qaida and Taliban militants, intelligence officials said.

The dead and injured included local and foreign militants, but women and children were also killed in the attack, said the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to talk to the media.

A local tribal elder, Dilawar Khan, confirmed that 13 people were killed in the strike, saying the owner's family were among the dead.

He said he did not know the identities of the other people killed or whether there were militants staying at the home, in Data Khel village very close to the Afghan border.

Government officials were not immediately available for comment.

Pakistan says the drone strikes violate the country's sovereignty, kill innocent civilians and generate sympathy for the militants.

But the US believes the attacks are an effective tool to combat militants in the region.

US President Barack Obama has said he will step up the pressure on Pakistan to crack down on militants in its territory by making aid to the country conditional on the government's anti-terrorism efforts.

Pakistan has said it is committed to the fight, but many Western officials suspect the country's military intelligence agency of maintaining links with militant groups.

Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari defended his country's commitment to fighting Islamic militants in a speech marking the 30th anniversary of the execution of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, an influential former prime minister who was hanged by a military regime on charges widely seen as politically motivated.

"People around the world say that our country will disintegrate. Some say that fundamentalists will rule the country," Zardari told thousands of people who assembled early today at the slain politician's tomb in southern Sindh province.

"But we will not let it happen as long as we are alive," he said.

Bhutto was the father of Zardari's late wife, Benazir Bhutto, a former prime minister who was assassinated by militants at the end of 2007, not long after returning to the country from exile to run in national elections.

Pakistan and the US have blamed Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud for Benazir Bhutto's death and scores of other attacks in Pakistan.

Earlier this week, Mehsud claimed responsibility for a deadly attack on a police academy in the eastern city of Lahore that left at least 12 people dead, including seven policeman.

He warned that his group would carry out more attacks in the country unless the US stops drone attacks against militants on the Afghan border.

The US Embassy in Islamabad issued a warning Friday saying the Pakistani government has information indicating potential suicide bombers and weapons have been smuggled into the country.

It said US government personnel have been warned to avoid hotels in the southern city of Karachi and to restrict their movement around cities.

Mehsud also threatened on Tuesday to attack the White House, although the FBI said he had made similar threats previously and there was no indication of anything imminent. The US has offered a reward of up to five million dollars for Mehsud's arrest.

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