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Missile strike kills eight in pakistan

March 26, 2009|Associated Press

DERA ISMAIL KHAN, PAKISTAN — A suspected U.S. missile attack killed at least eight militants Wednesday, including several foreigners, in the stronghold of Pakistan's top Taliban commander, intelligence officials said.

The strike came as the Obama administration prepares to unveil a new strategy to quell Islamist insurgents threatening Pakistan as well as neighboring Afghanistan and to keep the pressure on Al Qaeda and Taliban leaders in the region.

American officials have indicated that attacks along Pakistan's poorly policed western frontier, apparently carried out by unmanned CIA aircraft and stepped up since last year, will continue despite protests from the Pakistani government.

Wednesday's strike damaged two vehicles near Makeen, a town in the South Waziristan tribal region that borders Afghanistan, two Pakistani intelligence officials said.

Citing informants and intercepted militant communications, they said four of the dead were foreigners who had been riding in a pickup truck near a small bridge.

Four local militants also died, and three more were injured, they said.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly to the media. Authorities and militants limit access to the area, so verifying such reports is difficult.

Makeen is the base of Baitullah Mahsud, the leader of Pakistan's Taliban movement. There was no immediate indication he or any other senior militant was in either of the two vehicles targeted Wednesday.

U.S. officials say such airstrikes have killed a string of militant leaders and put Al Qaeda on the defensive in an area considered a possible hiding place for leaders Osama bin Laden and Ayman Zawahiri.

However, the Pakistani government argues that the tactic is counterproductive because it kills civilians, stokes anti-American feeling in the country and undermines its own efforts to isolate extremists.

Officials in the southwestern province of Baluchistan have protested reports that the U.S. is considering extending the attacks into their region.

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