Missile strike kills nine militants in Pakistan

Wed Aug 13, 2008 12:55pm EDT

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(Updates with bomb blast in Baluchistan)

By Hafiz Wazir

WANA, Pakistan, Aug 13 (Reuters) - At least nine militants were killed in a missile strike on their training camp in Pakistan's South Waziristan region, near the Afghan border, security officials and residents said on Wednesday.

In a separate incident, a gunman killed a militant leader at his office in a mosque in northwestern Pakistan's Khyber region.

Militant violence has been plaguing the nuclear-armed U.S. ally and helping to undermine investor confidence, as a crisis looms over attempts by a new coalition government to oust the unpopular President Pervez Musharraf.

Adding to security worries, a car bomb attack on police killed two passers-by in gas-rich Baluchistan province, where autonomy-seeking rebels have been fighting for years.

The missile strike in South Waziristan took place on Tuesday night in Bhagar, about 35 km (22 miles) west of Wana, the region's main town.

U.S. forces stationed in Afghanistan have carried out several drone-launched missile attacks this year in Pakistan's border regions, known al Qaeda and Taliban sanctuaries. Dozens of suspected militants have been killed.

An intelligence official in South Waziristan, who declined to be identified, told Reuters that at least four missiles were fired from across the border, hitting one of two militant training camps.

"This camp was run by Hizb-e-Islami and there were about 15 people including foreigners there at the time of the attack," he said referring to a militant faction allied with the Taliban.

Militants sealed off the area and were not letting anyone approach, he said, adding: "Our information is that they have recovered nine bodies."

Residents said aircraft had been flying over the area before the attack, which they said killed 12 people, some of them foreigners.



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Pakistani military spokesman were not available for comment.

A U.S. military spokesman in Afghanistan denied any involvement and a spokesman for a separate NATO-led force said he had no reports of any fire into Pakistan.

Predator drone aircraft that can fire missiles are operated by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency.

Separately, in Bara town in Pakistan's Khyber region, Islamist faction leader Haji Namdar was shot dead at a meeting at his office, where in May he escaped a suicide bomb attack.

Namdar led a group called the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, which promoted Taliban-style rule, but he was known to have had differences with Pakistan's main Taliban group.

Rival Islamist groups have been vying for power in Khyber, where security forces recently conducted a sweep to push militants back from the outskirts of Peshawar city.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for a bomb attack on an air force bus that killed 13 people in Peshawar on Wednesday.

There was no immediate claim for the bomb attack on police escorting cement company employees in Baluchistan. Police suspected nationalist rebels fighting for autonomy and greater control of gas resources. (Additional reporting by Alamgir Bitani, Ibrahim Shinwari, Gul Yousafzai and Jonathon Burch; Writing by Kamran Haider; Editing by Robert Birsel)



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