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Pakistan airstrike kills 6 Taliban

The attack destroys the hide-out of a deputy to leader Baitullah Mehsud, but it is unclear if the deputy was present.

July 18, 2009|Associated Press

MIR ALI, PAKISTAN — Pakistani fighter jets flattened a suspected Taliban hide-out in the northwest early today, killing six associates of a top local Taliban leader, intelligence officials said.

Pakistan has targeted Baitullah Mehsud and his commanders in recent months. Mehsud is accused of orchestrating the killing of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto and launching a string of suicide attacks across the country.

Today's airstrike in Upper Orakzai destroyed the hide-out of Mehsud's deputy Hakim Ullah, but it was unclear if he was present at the time, said two intelligence officials who requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.

The strike came a day after a suspected U.S. missile strike killed at least five alleged militants in North Waziristan, officials said. Pakistani officials have said U.S. missile strikes could interfere with its army offensives.

The missile hit a house in Gariwam village in North Waziristan, said two intelligence officials, who also spoke on condition of anonymity.

Local government official Anayat Ullah confirmed that a missile hit the village, while resident Ahmad Raza said he heard Taliban members saying five of their comrades were dead.

Over the last year, the U.S. has launched dozens of missile strikes in Pakistan's northwestern regions bordering Afghanistan.

The North and South Waziristan sections of the country's semiautonomous tribal belt have been frequent targets of the U.S. strikes because of the heavy Taliban and Al Qaeda presence there.

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