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US missile strikes kill 8 in Pak Taliban stronghold
Published on 2 Mar. 2009 12:41 AM IST
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At least eight people were killed Sunday in two suspected US missile strikes in northwest Pakistan near to the border with Afghanistan, security officials said. "Two missiles fired by a suspected US drone hit a compound in Sararogha, in tribal South Waziristan region, killing at least eight suspected militants," a security official said. The region is a known haven for Taliban and al-Qaida extremists. "It was a Taliban sanctuary, which was destroyed in the attack," another security official said. "Some foreigners were possibly among those killed in the attack," he said. The compound, which had underground bunkers, was in the area controlled by militant commander Baitullah Mehsud's tribe, he said. Mehsud heads the much feared Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and is the country's most wanted militant, accused of plotting the 2007 assassination of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto. This was the fourth missile strike by unmanned US aircraft since President Barack Obama came to power. A suspected US missile strike on Feb 16 destroyed an Afghan Taliban camp and killed 26 in Pakistan's northwest tribal area of Kurram. On February 14 two missiles fired by an unmanned drone struck one of Mehsud's camps in the tribal area of Ladha, killing at least 27 militants. Security officials said two Arabs, some local Taliban and a number of Uzbek fighters were killed in that strike. Mehsud was not in the camp. Pakistan is a key ally in the US-led "war against terrorism." But the strikes have fuelled anti-American sentiments in Pakistan and particularly in the tribal belt, where Washington says al-Qaida and Taliban have their sanctuaries. The lawless tribal areas have been wracked by violence since hundreds of Taliban and al-Qaida rebels sought refuge in the region after the US-led invasion of Afghanistan toppled the Taliban regime in late 2001. The latest missile strikes underscored vanished hopes in Pakistan that the new US administration of President Obama would review the policy and abandon what Islamabad has called a violation of its sovereignty. More than two dozen similar strikes have been carried out since August 2008, killing more than 200 people, most of them militants. In January a US drone attack killed the head of al-Qaida operations in Pakistan, Kenyan national Usama al-Kini, and his lieutenant Sheikh Ahmed Salim Swedan in South Waziristan. US and Afghan officials have accused Pakistan of not doing enough to crack down on militants, who cross the border to attack US and NATO troops. Pakistan rejects those accusations. More than 1,500 Pakistani troops have died at the hands of Islamist extremists since 2002, after the Islamabad government joined the "war on terror".

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