US missiles kill eight in Pakistan

Dera Ismail Khan, Dec 22:

Suspected US missile strikes killed at least eight people today in volatile northwest Pakistan, officials and witnesses said.

Bakht Janan, a local security official, said an unmanned drone aircraft began circling over the village of Kari Khel around 3 am and fired missiles at two vehicles several hours later. Witnesses told The Associated Press that one of the vehicles had been blasting away with an anti-aircraft gun at the drone.

Four people were killed as missiles hit the vehicle and an adjacent, fort-like house. Four others died in the second vehicle eight km away by dirt track.

Janan said an unexploded missile was found on the ground near the first vehicle.

Villager Yar Mohammad said local Taliban pulled out bodies from the rubble while cordoning off the scene about 15 km south of Wana, the main town in the South Waziristan tribal area near the Afghan border.

The US has carried out a series of more than 30 missile strikes since August in Pakistan’s lawless, semi-autonomous tribal areas, targeting al-Qaida and Taliban militants blamed for attacks in Afghanistan. While the missile strikes have killed scores of militants, Pakistani officials have criticised them as an infringement of its sovereignty and say they undermine their own battle against militancy.

Most of the missiles are believed to have been launched from unmanned spy planes that take off from Afgha-nistan. Washington rarely co-nfirms or denies the attacks.

Meanwhile, Interior Ministry spokesman Shahidullah Baig said an investigation was launched into the theft of a large cache of weapons seized after last year’s army assault on the Red Mosque, which left scores of occupying militants dead. The mosque was historically used as a jumping off point for militants en route to the fight in Kashmir. Shahidullah Baig said 10 police officials, including the head of the Aapbara police station where the weapons were stored, had been arrested.

“The weapons have gone missing from the store, and it was learnt recently that it has been happening in phases,” Baig said. He would not specify what was missing, but police seized assault rifles, pistols, hand grenades, rockets, rocket launchers and machine guns after the mosque assault in July 2007.