Suspected US Strike Inside Pakistan Kills Five: Officials
PESHAWAR - A suspected US drone fired two missiles into a Pakistani tribal area that is a known Al-Qaeda and Taliban hub, killing at least five people, security officials said on Thursday.
The strike in South Waziristan came hours after a suicide bomb destroyed a police station in a separate area of northwest Pakistan, where the government is waging a military campaign against Islamic militants.
"Two missiles were fired, completely destroying the house. Reports confirm five dead," a security official told AFP on condition of anonymity.
There was no immediate confirmation of the strike from the Pakistani military or from the US-led coalition in neighbouring Afghanistan.
Residents said they were clearing debris from the remains of the house in the search for more bodies after the drones, which had circled over the scene following the attack, flew away.
South Waziristan, which borders on Afghanistan, is a stronghold of Pakistani Taliban chief Baitullah Mehsud, but officials were unable to confirm he was the target of the attack.
Mehsud, the head of the umbrella Taliban organisation Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), was accused by Islamabad and the United States of masterminding the killing of former premier Benazir Bhutto in December 2007.
About 80 percent of the more than 70 suicide bombings across the country since July 2007 have been carried out by members of Mehsud's tribe, officials say.
Missile strikes targeting militants in Pakistan in recent weeks have been blamed on US-led coalition forces or CIA drones based in Afghanistan.
The United States has stepped up attacks on militants in Pakistani territory since a new civilian government came to power in Islamabad in March, and the incidents have become an issue in the US presidential election.
Relations have also been strained between the "war on terror" allies by a raid by US special operations forces into Pakistan on September 3 which killed several Pakistanis.
Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari has vowed zero tolerance against violations of his country's sovereignty amid the strikes, which have stoked anti-US sentiment in Pakistan.
On Wednesday, the military chiefs of Pakistan, Afghanistan and the international forces stationed in Afghanistan met near Islamabad to discuss "cooperation to avoid misunderstandings" along the border, a statement said.
Earlier Thursday, a suicide bomber destroyed a police station in the Swat valley, killing three security force personnel and one officer, police said.
The coordinated attack began with militants and security forces trading gunfire before the bomber drove a 14-seat bus into the back of the station's grounds, local police chief Dilawar Khan Bangash told AFP.
The vehicle exploded as it came under fire, blowing apart the building's heavy concrete floors and reducing its walls to rumble.
About 30 people were injured and scores of shops, a hotel, a school and many houses were also damaged in the blast in Mingora, the main town in the Swat valley.
US and Afghan officials say northwest Pakistan is a safe haven for Al-Qaeda and Taliban militants who sneaked in from Afghanistan after the fall of the Taliban regime in late 2001.
Al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden and his deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, are widely believed to be hiding in the area.