Suspected U.S. Strikes Kill Eight in Pakistan

By Ishtiaq Mahsud
Associated Press
Tuesday, December 23, 2008

DERA ISMAIL KHAN, Pakistan, Dec. 23 -- Suspected U.S. missile strikes killed eight people Monday in northwest Pakistan, where al-Qaeda and Taliban leaders are thought to be hiding, officials and witnesses said.

The identities of those killed in the two attacks -- the latest in a stepped-up U.S. campaign in the lawless region close to the Afghan border -- were not known.

Meanwhile, the government said an al-Qaeda-linked terrorist group was suspected of helping carry out the September suicide attack on the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad, the capital.

Interior Ministry chief Rehman Malik's charge against Lashkar-i-Jhangvi was the first time Pakistan has blamed a specific group for the bombing, which killed more than 50 people.

Monday's missiles struck about five miles apart just south of Wana, the main town in the South Waziristan tribal area, local security official Bakht Janan said. A house and a vehicle were destroyed in the attacks, which killed four people at each location, he said.

Witnesses told the Associated Press that an antiaircraft gun mounted on a vehicle fired on one of the drones before it launched a missile.

The United States has carried out more than 30 missile strikes since August in Pakistan's lawless, semiautonomous tribal areas, targeting al-Qaeda and Taliban fighters blamed for attacks in Afghanistan.

Although the missile strikes have killed scores of insurgents, Pakistan has criticized them as an infringement of its sovereignty and says they undermine its battle against extremism.

In Washington, a Pentagon spokesman, Lt. Col. Jonathan Withington, said he had no information on the Monday strikes. Officials at the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad could not be reached for comment early Tuesday. The United States rarely confirms or denies such attacks and has pushed Pakistan to clear out fighters in the tribal areas.

Pakistan has arrested three people in the Sept. 20 Marriott truck bombing, but no one has been formally charged.

Malik told lawmakers that assailants packed explosives into the truck in Jhang town in Punjab province, south of Islamabad. He said Lashkar-i-Jhangvi "assisted" with the plot, but he gave no more details.

Experts say the Sunni insurgent group has formed links with al-Qaeda in recent years. The group has been accused of attacks against minority Shiites across the country, Westerners in Karachi and two assassination attempts against then-President Pervez Musharraf in 2003.

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