From: Reuters
Published March 16, 2008 09:40 AM

Missiles hit Pakistan's Waziristan, 12 militants dead

By Hafiz Wazir

WANA, Pakistan (Reuters) - Up to three missiles struck a house in a Pakistani region known as a safe haven for al Qaeda and Taliban militants on Sunday, killing 12 people including eight foreign militants, officials in the area said.

The attack took place in the village of Shahnawaz Kheil Dhoog, near the town of Wana in the South Waziristan region on the Afghan border.

"Eight foreigners and four of their supporters were killed," said a district government official, who declined to be identified.

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The nationality of the foreigners was not known but some residents of the area said Arabs were among the dead.

A military official said earlier that militants were believed to have been hiding at the house and seven of them were killed and several wounded.

It was not clear who fired the missiles but villagers said they had heard the sound of a pilot less drone in the sky before the blasts.

U.S. forces have used drones to fire missiles at militants on the Pakistani side of the border several times in recent years.

A missile believed fired by a U.S. drone killed 13 suspected militants in South Waziristan in late February.

On January 28 one of Osama bin Laden's top lieutenants, Abu Laith al-Libi, was killed in a strike in North Waziristan.

Pakistani military spokesman Major General Athar Abbas said there were reports of blasts and some casualties in the area and the military was checking.

NOT A PAKISTANI ATTACK

Abbas also said Pakistani forces had not carried out any operation in the area and he did not know who carried out the strike or what type of weapon was used.

Neither U.S. nor Pakistani authorities officially confirm U.S. missile attacks on Pakistani territory, which would be an infringement of Pakistani sovereignty.

Pakistan, an important U.S. ally despite widespread public opposition to the U.S.-led campaign against al Qaeda and the Taliban, says foreign troops would never be allowed to operate on its territory.

Many al Qaeda members, including Uzbeks and Arabs, and Taliban militants took refuge in North and South Waziristan, as well as in other areas on the Pakistani side of the border after U.S.-led forces ousted the Taliban in Afghanistan in 2001.

From sanctuaries in the lawless border belt, the Taliban have orchestrated their insurgency against the Afghan government and the U.S. and NATO forces supporting it.

Increasingly, so-called Pakistani Taliban have been mounting attacks in Pakistani towns and cities, many aimed at security forces and other government targets.

In the latest bomb attack, a Turkish woman was killed and five Americans were among 11 people wounded in a blast at a restaurant popular with foreigners in the capital, Islamabad, on Saturday night.

(Additional reporting by Kamran Haider; Editing by Robert Birsel)

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