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Missile kills 4 in Pakistan; 18 die in stampede

September 15, 2009|Associated Press

MIR ALI, PAKISTAN — A missile fired from a suspected unmanned U.S. drone slammed into a car in a Pakistani tribal region close to the Afghan border Monday, killing four people, intelligence officials and residents said.

The apparent U.S. missile strike was the latest of more than 50 in northwestern Pakistan this year aimed at killing top Al Qaeda and Taliban leaders. Last month, the head of the Pakistani Taliban was killed in such a strike.

Monday's attack took place about 1.5 miles from the town of Mir Ali in North Waziristan, two officials and witnesses said. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity, saying they needed to remain unnamed to do their job effectively.

The identities of the victims were not known.

Witnesses Ikramullah Khan and Mohammad Salim said the missile hit a vehicle with blacked-out windows, a feature associated with Taliban fighters in the region.

Pakistan objects to the U.S. missile strikes as violations of its sovereignty and says they fan support for the insurgents, but Washington has shown no sign of abandoning a tactic that it says has killed several ranking militants and disrupted their operations.

Separately, at least 18 women and girls waiting for handouts of flour in the southern Pakistani city of Karachi died when the crowd around them swelled and a stampede ensued, officials said.

The deaths came during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, a traditional time for charitable acts, including giving away food.

"Poverty is on the rise, there is a desperation among people," local government official Javed Hanif said.

Pakistani police also announced Monday that a recently detained suspected terrorist is a Swedish national once held by the U.S. at Guantanamo Bay. He and others in his group are accused of trying to join up with Al Qaeda in the country's lawless tribal areas.

Mohammad Rizwan, police chief of the southern town of Dera Ghazi Khan, said authorities made the identification after interrogating the man, Mehdi-Muhammed Ghezali. A copy of his Swedish passport showed that his face matched that of previously published photos of the man held at Guantanamo.

"I do confirm that he is the same person. He is a very dangerous man," Rizwan said.

Ghezali was arrested on the outskirts of Dera Ghazi Khan on Aug. 28 with a group of foreigners, including seven Turks and three other Swedes who lacked proper immigration stamps.

A Swede named Mehdi-Muhammed Ghezali was arrested in Pakistan in 2001 and held for two years at Guantanamo. The U.S. released him in 2004.

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