Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Wire: Suspected US Missiles, Pakistan Jets Hit Militants

Off the Wire

Off the Wire:

WASHINGTON, July 7, 2009 -- Even as newswire services this morning headlined a quote from President Barack Obama's speech in Russia, "The future does not belong to those who gather armies on a field of battle or bury missiles in the ground," suspected U.S. missiles hit followers of a notorious militant leader close to the Afghan border.

Between 12 and 16 militants were killed when two missiles hit a training camp run by Pakistani Taliban chief Baitullah Mehsud in South Waziristan tribal region, intelligence officials said on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to media. The missiles were believed fired by American drones, the Associated Press said.

AP noted the following details:
Five foreigners were among the dead, but their nationalities were not known, the officials said. Top Arab leaders of the al-Qaida terror network are believed to be hiding in the region, as well as scores of militants from nearby countries such as Afghanistan and Uzbekistan.

Mehsud was not among the victims of the strike, the fourth in the space of two weeks targeting him or his followers.

Hours after the strikes, Pakistani war planes bombed militants positions around 25 miles (40 kilometers) away, the army said. Casualties in those strikes were unknown.

The army insisted it was not coordinating the missile strikes with Washington and reiterated its opposition to them despite the damage they were inflicting on Mehsud's followers.

"It hurts the campaign rather than helps," said Maj. Gen Athar Abbas, arguing that they alienate local tribes whose support the military needs to defeat Mehsud.
The United States is believed to have launched more than 40 missile strikes against targets in the border area since last August, according to a count by the Associated Press.

The U.S. does not directly acknowledge responsibility for launching the missiles.

(Report from newswire sources.)

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