ISLAMABAD, Pakistan – At least 12 people were killed Friday after a missile slammed into a small village in northwest Pakistan in a suspected U.S. airstrike near the border of Afghanistan, according to a Pakistani security official.
The latest in a recent series of such incidents, the missile strike on the tribal village of Kam Sam in North Waziristan marked the first attack since Pakistan’s top defense official warned the newly appointed head of U.S. Central Command to halt airborne assaults inside Pakistan.
U.S. Gen. David Petraeus said during a visit to the Pakistani capital of Islamabad this week that he would heed the Pakistani government’s concerns about the U.S.-led, cross-border strikes.
But during a subsequent visit to Afghanistan this week, Petraeus touted the success of such attacks in eliminating top Taliban commanders. He has made no express promise to end the missile strikes.
Since August, more than 100 people have been killed in 18 U.S. airstrikes in Pakistan’s restive tribal frontier lands along the border of Afghanistan. Pakistan’s largely ungoverned Federally Administered Tribal Areas have increasingly come to be seen by U.S. officials as the pivot point in the war on Islamist insurgents in the region.
The majority of U.S. missile strikes have targeted suspected insurgent safe havens in the tribal areas of North and South Waziristan, which have long been considered strongholds for a shadowy nexus of al-Qaeda and Taliban fighters. North Waziristan has born the brunt of the most recent cross-border attacks, including a controversial ground raid by U.S. troops near the town of Angor Adda that killed up to 15 people Sept. 3.
Pakistani military officials declined to comment on the missile strike Friday in Kam Sam.
But a Pakistani intelligence official said more than a dozen people – including four foreign fighters – were killed in the strike, in which two missiles fired from an unmanned U.S. aircraft crashed into Kam Sam about 10:30 a.m.
The intelligence official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak publicly on such matters, said the identities of those killed were still unknown as of early Friday evening. He initially said 19 were killed in the strike but said other reports suggested the figure might be closer to 12 or 13.
U.S.-led strikes have raised the ire of top Pakistani officials who say the attacks undermine U.S. credibility in the region and fuel anti-American sentiment. On Monday, Pakistani Defense Minister Ahmad Mukhtar warned Petraeus that further strikes would provoke “outrage” among Pakistanis.
The U.S.-led attacks have already prompted a number of anti-American protests in Pakistan’s tribal areas, including several that attracted thousands in September following the raid in Angor Adda.