US missile strike kills 15 militants in Pakistan

Other News Materials 17 January 2010 13:31 (UTC +04:00)

A suspected US missile strike killed at least 15 Taliban fighters in Pakistan's South Waziristan tribal district near Afghanistan on Sunday, security officials said.

   Two missiles believed to be fired by a US-operated pilotless aircraft struck a compound in Shaktoi, a remote village located on the border with the restive North Waziristan tribal region.

   "Fifteen bodies have so far been dug out from the rubble," an intelligence official said, quoting an informant in the field. The death toll might increase, he added.

   Another security official said al-Qaeda-linked Uzbek fighters were among the dead. He gave no further details.

   Sunday's strike was the latest in a series of US drone attacks that picked up pace after a Jordanian double agent crossed into Afghanistan from the tribal badlands and struck a US intelligence centre, killing seven agents.

   In a video message aired last week, Jordanian attacker Humam Khalil Abu-Mulal al-Balawi sat beside Pakistani Taliban leader Hakimullah Mesud.

   A US airstrike flattened a compound, previously used to house a seminary in the Shaktoi area on Thursday, killing at least 13 militants.

   After rumours that the Taliban chief was hit in the strike, Mehsud released at least two audio messages in as many days, stressing that he was "alive and in good health."

   He warned the Pakistani government of severe retaliation if the US strikes did not stop.

   Islamabad officially criticizes the drone attacks, saying they violate the country's sovereignty and stoke anti-American sentiments. But analysts believe Pakistan covertly supports the raids by sharing intelligence to locate the militants.