DERA ISMAIL KHAN, Pakistan – At least 15 people, including women and children, were killed in an attack involving U.S.-led forces in a remote Pakistani village near the border with Afghanistan, intelligence officials and a witness said today.
The U.S.-led coalition in Afghanistan said it had no report of such an incursion, reported to have happened in the militant-infested South Waziristan tribal region. Pakistan’s army confirmed an attack but did not specify if it believed foreign troops were involved.
The U.S. and Pakistan, allies in the war on terror, have had tensions over cross-border attacks, including suspected American missile strikes in Pakistani territory. In one high-profile incident earlier this year, Pakistan said 11 of its soldiers died when U.S. aircraft bombed their border post.
Habib Khan Wazir, an area resident, said the latest incident happened before dawn, shortly after an American helicopter landed in the village of Musa Nikow in South Waziristan.
He said as the owner of a home nearby came outside with his wife, the “American and Afghan soldiers starting firing.”
Khan said later the troops entered the house and killed seven other people, including women and children. He said the troops also killed six other residents.
Two local intelligence officials confirmed the account on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to media. One official said 19 people died.
The U.S. embassy in Islamabad declined to comment.
Maj. Murad Khan, a spokesman for Pakistan’s army, said it could confirm an attack on a house near the Pakistan-Afghan border.
“We are collecting details,” Khan said, without specifying if Americans were involved.
American officials say Pakistan’s tribal regions along the Afghan border have turned into havens for al-Qaida and Taliban-linked militants involved in attacks on U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan. South Waziristan is the base for Pakistan’s top Taliban leader, Baitullah Mehsud.
The U.S. has pushed Pakistan to crack down on the militancy inside its territory, and there have been debates in Washington over how far the U.S. can go in carrying out its own strikes.
U.S. rules of engagement allow ground forces to go a few miles into Pakistan when in “hot pursuit” and when forces were targeted or fired on by the enemy. U.S. rules also allow aircraft to go several miles into Pakistan air space.