Officials: US missiles kill 23 in Pakistan

June 8, 2011 - 7:13 AM

PESHAWAR, Pakistan (AP) — A pair of U.S. missile strikes hit a vehicle and an alleged insurgent training facility Wednesday in a tribal region near the Afghan border, killing 23 suspected Islamist militants, Pakistani intelligence officials said.

The two missile strikes bring this week's count to five. They are the latest sign that the U.S. has no intention of abandoning the tactic despite public disapproval in Pakistan and a downturn in relations between Islamabad and Washington following the American raid that killed Osama bin Laden.

The strikes occurred within minutes of each other, the four Pakistani intelligence officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to brief the media.

One missile hit a vehicle carrying five men. The other struck a nearby compound, killing 18 people in the Shawal area, which lies along the border that separates the South and North Waziristan tribal regions. The compound is believed to have housed a training camp for extremists, the officials said.

Both regions are home to various militant groups, including several involved in attacks on Western forces across the border in Afghanistan.

The area hit Wednesday was on the North Waziristan side, in territory under the control of Hafiz Gul Bahadur, a warlord involved in the Afghan fight.

North Waziristan is the usual target for U.S. missiles because it is home to more groups fighting in Afghanistan and because the Pakistani military has resisted U.S. appeals to launch an offensive there. But this week's strikes had mostly hit South Waziristan or along the border of the two regions.

Since 2008, the U.S. has increased its use of drone-fired missiles to take out al-Qaida and Taliban targets in Pakistan. Islamabad officially protests the strikes as violations of Pakistan's sovereignty, but it is widely believed to have secretly provided intelligence for some of them.

The May 2 U.S. raid that killed Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad, a garrison city in Pakistan's northwest, infuriated Pakistani lawmakers who saw it as another violation of their sovereignty. Pakistan's parliament passed a resolution demanding the missile strikes end, but the U.S. has ignored it.

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Associated Press Writer Ishtiaq Mahsud contributed to this report from Dera Ismail Khan.