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Reported U.S. missile strike leaves four dead in Pakistan

Elsewhere in the country, nine people are killed as militants attack a convoy of anti-Taliban elders.

September 25, 2009|Associated Press

MIR ALI, PAKISTAN — A suspected U.S. missile strike killed four people in northwestern Pakistan late Thursday, intelligence officials said.

The strike occurred near the town of Mir Ali in the North Waziristan tribal region close to the Afghan border, said two intelligence officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to reporters.

The border region provides Islamist militants with a haven from which they can stage attacks on foreign forces in Afghanistan. The mountainous, lawless area is also a breeding ground for the insurgents who launch near-daily attacks on Pakistan's U.S.-backed government and security forces.

Earlier Thursday, militants ambushed a convoy of prominent anti-Taliban tribal elders in the northwest, spraying their cars with gunfire and killing nine people, police said.

The members of the anti-Taliban citizens group were traveling from the Machikhel area of North Waziristan to meet security officials in nearby Bannu district when their three-vehicle convoy was attacked, police officer Mohammad Ghani Khan said.

Pakistani authorities have urged tribal elders to speak out against the Taliban, and in turn militants have killed scores of local leaders. With government backing, some elders have raised militias, known as lashkars, to battle the insurgents. The militias have been likened to Iraq's Awakening Councils, which helped U.S. forces turn the tide against the Al Qaeda in Iraq militant group.

The ambush came after a separate attack by militants who killed two members of another anti-Taliban committee Thursday in the Swat Valley, to the northeast. The assailants struck as members of the "peace committee" slept in the Sertelegram area, Mayor Mohammad Ibrar Khan said.

In the Swat region, thousands of armed citizens gathered at the Saidu Sharif airport, fearing a Taliban comeback after an army offensive that has driven the militants back.

"We will resist militants and guard our area for a lasting peace," said Inamur Rehman, head of the Swat National Council.

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