15 dead in missile strike in Pak

ISLAMABAD: U.S. missiles struck a training facility allegedly operated by Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud and a militant hide-out Friday, killing 15 people and wounding 27 others, intelligence officials said.

The two attacks took place in South Waziristan, a Mehsud stronghold close to the Afghan border, two officials said on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.

They were the latest in more than 40 such strikes by the United States against militant targets in the border area since last August. Washington does not directly acknowledge being responsible for the attacks, which kill civilians as well as militants.

The strikes came as the Pakistani military prepares for its own offensive in South Waziristan to eliminate Mehsud, who has been blamed for a string of deadly suicide attacks across the country that have killed more than 100 people in the past month.

One attack targeted an abandoned seminary in the village of Mantoi that was allegedly being used by militants from Mehsud's group for training, said the officials. The other struck a hide-out in the nearby village of Kokat Khel, they said.

In total, 15 people were killed and 27 others were wounded, they said.

Also Friday, Pakistani warplanes bombed suspected militant hide-outs in neigboring North Waziristan, killing at least four insurgents and wounding seven others, intelligence officials said.

Those airstrikes hit targets where Taliban fighters killed 16 government troops in an ambush earlier this week, two more intelligence officials said, also speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.

Washington strongly supports Islamabad's campaign against militants along the Afghan border, which it says cross into Afghanistan and attack US and NATO troops.

On Thursday, some 4,000 U.S. Marines launched a fresh offensive in southern Afghanistan against the Taliban. Friday's missile strikes were not related to that operation.