Officials: U.S. missiles kill 5 in NW Pakistan
PESHAWAR, Pakistan (AP) – A suspected U.S. missile strike killed at least five people in the Khyber tribal region of northwest Pakistan on Saturday, in what would be one of the first such attacks in the area, intelligence and government officials said.
U.S. missiles have regularly pounding al-Qaida and Taliban targets along the Afghan border for two years now. The attacks have killed scores of people, most of them identified as militants by Pakistani officials. But they have caused anger in Pakistan, where many people see them as an unacceptable violation of the country’s sovereignty.
The suspected strike in Khyber could fan fresh anger because it represented a widening of the covert program.
Officials gave differing death tolls in the strike, which one said involved two missiles hitting a house and two trucks loaded with militants. The death toll ranged from 5 to 15. Such discrepancies are common and are rarely reconciled.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.
Much of the supplies for U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan are transported through the region and the convoys have often been attacked.
The United States does not officially acknowledge firing the missiles, let alone make public where they have hit.
Associated Press reports on past strikes do not show any in the Khyber region.
Almost all of the more than 30 missile attacks this year have hit targets in the Waziristan tribal region.
Khyber is also a militant hotspot that has seen several Pakistani military operations over the last year.
Elsewhere in the tribal region, militants armed with assault rifles kidnapped about 60 people after ambushing their vehicles, police said.
The hostages in the Kurram region included women and children, though it was not clear how many, area police chief Chaman Mir said. The group was headed to the northwestern city of Peshawar in 10 vehicles when they were ambushed.
Police were trying to trace and recover the hostages, who were all believed to be Pakistanis.
Robberies and kidnapping for ransom are common in Kurram, though 60 is an unusually large number.
The region has also witnessed clashes between the majority Sunni Muslims and the minority Shiite.