Suspected U.S. drone attack kills 15 in Pakistan

By Pamela Constable
Washington Post Foreign Service
Monday, January 18, 2010; 1:54 PM

ISLAMABAD -- A missile strike by what was believed to be a remote-controlled U.S. drone plane killed 15 people Monday in the tribal area of South Waziristan, officials said.

The strike, which hit the home of a well-known Taliban supporter, was the third such attack in four days against the militant sanctuary.

On Thursday, a drone attack in the same area apparently missed the top Taliban leader in Pakistan, Hakimullah Mehsud. He subsequently issued two statements insisting he was alive, but officials said he might have been wounded. Despite official objections from Pakistan, the United States has stepped up the pace of drone attacks since a suicide bomber killed seven CIA agents in Afghanistan last month.

In a separate development, five American citizens from Pakistan and other Muslim countries who face terrorism charges appeared briefly in a Pakistani courtroom Monday. Afterward they shouted at reporters from a prison van that they were being tortured in custody. Local police officials denied the allegation.

The young men, all residents of Northern Virginia, were arrested in Pakistan last fall after reportedly attempting to contact militant Islamic groups there. Police said they had presented charges of criminal conspiracy and subversion against all five and that a new court hearing would be held Feb. 2.

Special correspondents Haq Nawaz Khan and Shaiq Hussain contributed to this report.

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