Suspected U.S. Strike Kills 11 in NW Pakistan

Japanese journalist Motoki Yotsukura arrives at a hospital in Islamabad. Gunmen fired on a car carrying him and an assistant, who was also injured.
Japanese journalist Motoki Yotsukura arrives at a hospital in Islamabad. Gunmen fired on a car carrying him and an assistant, who was also injured. (By B.k. Bangash -- Associated Press)
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By Shaiq Hussain
Special to The Washington Post
Saturday, November 15, 2008

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, Nov. 14 -- At least 11 people were killed early Friday, including six foreign fighters, in a suspected U.S. missile strike on Pakistan's troubled border region of North Waziristan, a security official and an eyewitness said.

Also Friday, gunmen in the frontier city of Peshawar opened fire on a car carrying a Japanese journalist and his Pakistani assistant. Motoki Yotsukura of the Asahi Shimbun, a major Japanese daily, was wounded in the leg, police officer Mohammed Khan told the Associated Press.

Yotsukura's assistant was also injured, but no further information was immediately available, the AP reported.

In the North Waziristan village of Waladin, a spy plane believed to be a U.S. drone fired two missiles about 2 a.m. at the house of Amir Gul, a local Taliban commander who has ties to al-Qaeda-linked foreign militants, said Hidayatullah Wazir, a resident of a nearby border area.

Wazir, who lives in the village of Garyum, said that he tried to visit the targeted village after the attack but that local Taliban members had encircled the area and would not allow any outsider to enter. Wazir said Taliban loyalists were enraged over the presumed U.S. attack and could be heard chanting "Death to America."

Wazir said Waladin is in a remote border area of North Waziristan and is one of the strongholds of Baitullah Mehsud, the most influential Taliban commander in Pakistan. Mehsud has been blamed for the assassination of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto and many other suicide bombings and terrorist acts across the country.

An intelligence official who spoke on the condition of anonymity said informants from the area reported that at least six foreign fighters had been killed in the missile strike along with local Taliban members. However, the official added that there was no report so far about whether Mehsud was present during the attack.

The United States is believed to have launched a surge of missile strikes on Pakistan's restive tribal region in recent months, though American military and government officials rarely comment on, confirm or deny the attacks. Friday's strike followed a visit to Islamabad on Thursday by the commander of the NATO-led forces in Afghanistan, U.S. Gen. David D. McKiernan.

The NATO commander not only held meetings with senior Pakistani military officials but also interacted with local members of Parliament at the U.S. Embassy.

McKiernan briefed Pakistani lawmakers on the security situation on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border as well as the efforts of NATO forces to curb insurgent attacks.

© 2008 The Washington Post Company