MIR ALI, Pakistan – Suspected U.S. missiles killed 12 people Saturday in a Pakistani tribal region filled with Islamist insurgents bent on pushing Western troops out of neighboring Afghanistan, intelligence officials said.
The airstrike in Issori village of North Waziristan was the first such attack since intense floods hit Pakistan in late July. The U.S. has tried to improve its public image in Pakistan by sending flood aid, but the missile strike showed Washington was not willing to stop using a tactic that has fed its unpopularity here.
Two intelligence officials said at least two of those killed in the house hit by missiles were suspected militants, but they did not know the identities of the others.
Raza Ullah, a resident of the village, transported two men wounded in the attack to a nearby hospital on his motorbike. In a brief, rushed encounter with an Associated Press reporter, Ullah said two or three U.S. drones were seen hovering above the targeted house before the missiles rained down.
The U.S. rarely discusses the covert, CIA-run missile campaign, but officials have said in the past it has proven a valuable tool in the battle against al-Qaida and Taliban fighters sheltering in Pakistan’s tribal areas.
North Waziristan has been the almost exclusive target in the missile campaign in recent months. It is home to several militant groups, such as the Haqqani network, whose primary focus is the war in Afghanistan.
Pakistan officially decries the attacks but is believed to aid secretly in at least some of the airstrikes. The missile attacks, however, have deepened widespread anti-American sentiment in the country.
As Pakistan struggles to recover from the worst flooding in its history, the U.S. has donated more than $70 million in aid and sent helicopters and Marines to help in the relief work. The goal, in part, is to improve America’s image here, and some analysts have suggested that ongoing missile strikes could negate that effort.