Tribe: U.S., Not Pakistan, Hit Village

By ISHTIAQ MAHSUD
The Associated Press
Friday, January 19, 2007; 9:13 AM

ZAMZOLA, Pakistan -- Tribesmen from a Pakistani mountain village where an airstrike hit a suspected al-Qaida hideout claimed Friday that missiles were fired from an American plane and denied the dead were terrorists.

Locals were still digging through the rubble of homes destroyed in the Tuesday airstrike of Zamzola village in South Waziristan where Pakistan's army says its helicopter gunships killed eight suspected militants.

"This is a pack of lies," said Jalandhar Khan, 40, holding a shovel near the ruins of a neighbor's ruined house. "There was no al-Qaida man. Those killed or injured in this attack by America were innocent woodcutters."

Reporters were taken to Zamzola, a remote village located in a forest about two miles from the Afghan border, by supporters of Baitullah Mehsud, a local militant leader who has vowed to avenge the airstrike.

About 70 tribesmen chanted slogans against Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf and President Bush.

Body parts still littered the ruins of three wrecked compounds, and two unexploded missiles were half buried near two others. One was labeled "AM York 0873." Their provenance was unclear.

"I swear that innocent people died here," another villager Bashir Mehsud, 70, said. "God will punish Bush and Musharraf for it."

He said he was preparing for his morning Islamic prayers at his home when he heard the sound of a plane.

"I saw one American plane. It fired five missiles and went away," he said. It wasn't clear how he knew it to be American. He said that 15 minutes after the attack, five Pakistani helicopters arrived and started firing at the destroyed homes.

Shortly after the attack, Mehsud said he saw mutilated and burned bodies. The wounded were taken to a local hospital, he said.

Pakistani army officials were not immediately available for comment.


© 2007 The Associated Press