10 Pakistan militants die in mystery strike

Other News Materials 3 November 2007 02:15 (UTC +04:00)

(MSNBC) - A missile destroyed a suspected militant hideout in northwestern Pakistan near the Afghan border Friday, killing 10 people inside and wounding 11, security officials said.

It was not clear who fired the missile that struck a compound in Danday village on the outskirts of Miran Shah, the main town in the North Waziristan tribal region, an army official and two local security officials said on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.

U.S. missiles are suspected of having struck alleged militant hideouts in the past, but Washington insisted Friday there was no indication the American military was involved.

Residents in Miran Shah, about 12 miles from the Afghan border, said they saw a low-flying drone an hour before hearing a loud explosion.

Militants blocked a reporter from approaching the building that was hit, and later took the dead and wounded from the scene, but it was not clear where, the two Pakistani officials said. They said the victims were rebel fighters.

Pakistani forces have been battling pro-Taliban militants in North Waziristan, the scene of heavy fighting last month. The country is also under U.S. pressure to crack down on militants in the region, amid concerns that al-Qaida could be regrouping there.

Spokesmen for Pakistan's army and government did not respond to calls seeking comment, but the army official confirmed the attack, although he would not say who had launched it.

"I saw a spy plane about one hour before the explosion," said local shop owner Arman Khan, adding that it came from the direction of the Afghan border. Two other residents had similar reports.

U.S. military denial

U.S. Defense Department spokesman Bryan Whitman said he did not think the U.S. military launched the missile.

"There is no information this morning that would indicate that there was any U.S. military involvement," he said in Washington.

The CIA also has operated unmanned vehicles in the region. Asked if the missile could have been launched by another U.S. agency, Whitman said, "I only talk for the United States military."

In January 2006, missiles allegedly fired from a CIA Predator drone hit houses in Bajur, another tribal region near Afghanistan, targeting al-Qaida No. 2 Ayman al-Zawahri and killing at least 13 people. Al-Zawahri was not in the area at the time, according to Pakistani intelligence officials.

The U.S. government never confirmed its involvement in that strike.

In December 2005, a suspected U.S. missile killed an Egyptian al-Qaida figure, Hamza Rabia, in North Waziristan. Pakistan's army claimed that Rabia died while making bombs at a home, where fragments of what appeared to be a missile were seen by local reporters.

Friday's missile attack came as U.S. Central Command chief Adm. William Fallon visited Pakistan. He met with President Gen. Pervez Musharraf, the Geo TV network reported.