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U.S. missile strikes in Pakistan's North Waziristan region kill 17

MIR ALI, Pakistan — Two U.S. missile strikes pummeled targets inside the main sanctuary used by al-Qaida and the Taliban along Pakistan's border with Afghanistan, killing 17 people Thursday, local intelligence officials said.

The missiles rained down Thursday on North Waziristan, a haven for many militants, including groups determined to push the United States and NATO out of Afghanistan. The second, bloodier attack involved five drones and 10 missiles — an unusually intense bombardment, the officials said.

The strikes in North Waziristan are especially sensitive because they risk angering Afghan-focused militant groups who have agreed to be neutral as Islamabad cracks down on Taliban fighters in neighboring South Waziristan who have threatened the Pakistani state.

The target of the strikes was not immediately clear. Pakistani intelligence officials said territory where the strikes took place is controlled by Hafiz Gul Bahadur, a warlord whose fighters focus on pushing out Western troops in Afghanistan.

In the first strike, two missiles hit a car carrying two suspected insurgents in Dosali village, the officials said. Later Thursday, 10 missiles killed 15 people in two compounds in the Ambarshaga area. At least seven of the dead were foreigners, the officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media.

The United States has carried out more than 40 such missile strikes this year, killing scores of suspected al-Qaida and Taliban militants, but angering many Pakistanis who point to civilian casualties. Pakistan regularly condemns the attacks as violations of its sovereignty, but it is believed to secretly aid the U.S. campaign.

The United States rarely acknowledges the covert, CIA-run missile program. But when officials have confirmed the attacks, they note that the missiles have slain several top al-Qaida operatives, as well as Pakistani Taliban chief Baitullah Mehsud.

Information from the tribal regions is nearly impossible to verify independently because access to the areas is severely restricted.

U.S. missile strikes in Pakistan's North Waziristan region kill 17 12/17/09 [Last modified: Thursday, December 17, 2009 9:31pm]
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