Missile attack kills at least eight in north-west Pakistan
At least eight people were killed Monday when a missile hit the central office of a militant organization in Pakistan's Khyber tribal district, where government forces have launched an offensive to quell Islamic insurgency, officials said.
The strike that took place in the wee hours destroyed the compound housing the headquarters of Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice Movement, a religious group headed by radical cleric Haji Namdar in Bara area of Khyber district, reported dpa.
The residents said the missile was fired from a US pilotless plane. "We heard two planes flying in the area and then there was a huge explosion," said Wali Mohammed.
Eight bodies and nine injured had so far been pulled out of the rubble.
Namdar was previously associated with pro-Taliban militants and was providing them with sanctuaries and arms to target convoys in Khyber Agency carrying supplies for NATO forces in Afghanistan.
However, few months back he reportedly defected and helped the security forces in eliminating some of the Taliban hideouts from the area and arresting several of them.
In another turnaround, Namdar re-established contacts with top militant commander Baitullah Mehsud after surviving a suicide attack on May 1 that injured his 25 followers.
Following Monday's missile attack, he told DawnNews television channel he did not know who carried it out.
The strike came as Pakistani security forces troops continued their offensive in Khyber district destroying the centres of another militant commander Mangal Bagh, whose armed followers were threatening neighbouring Peshawar, the capital of North-West Frontier Province.
Paramilitary troops from Frontier Corps, which faced little resistance from the rebels, unearthed a privately-run jail and a torture cell, the officials claimed.
A pirated FM radio station used by the militants for propaganda was also blown up.
The government had initially offered peace talks to the militant organizations after it took over in March but was forced to take strict security measures when Bagh's men infiltrated Peshawar and threatened barbers and owners of music and video shops to stop their trades, which the group believes un-Islamic.
A spokesman for Mehsud said Taliban had scarped peace deals and suspending talks negotiations with the government.