Suspected hideout hit in Pakistan
At least 5 killed in missile attack, officials say
DERA ISMAIL KHAN, Pakistan - Missiles destroyed a suspected militant hideout near the Afghan border yesterday that foreign insurgents were known to frequent, killing at least five people, Pakistani officials said.
The reported strike - which raised suspicion that the United States was again targeting militants in Pakistan - came days after Pervez Musharraf's resignation from the presidency triggered a power struggle.
Leaders of the ruling coalition are divided over who should succeed the former military ruler and on the restoration of dozens of judges he fired last year in an attempt to hold on to power.
Four intelligence officials said the missiles destroyed a compound near Wana, the main town in the South Waziristan tribal region. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.
Initial reports from the area indicated between five and 10 people were killed and several others wounded, but there were no details about the identity of the victims, the officials said.
Pakistan's tribal regions such as South Waziristan are believed to provide sanctuary to pro-Taliban insurgents fighting in Afghanistan as well as members of Al Qaeda - with both Osama bin Laden and the militant group's number two, Ayman al-Zawahri, believed to be hiding in the rugged terrain.
The Pakistan army spokesman, Major General Athar Abbas, confirmed that there was an explosion near Wana and that several people were believed killed, but could not give any details until the army investigated. Militants have cordoned off the area, making that task difficult, he said.
US forces operate drone aircraft armed with missiles along the border and in the past have been known to target militant hideouts, straining ties between Washington and Islamabad.
Waliur Rehman, a shopkeeper in Wana, said he heard the familiar sound of a drone at about 7:30 p.m. followed by two explosions. "The planes are still in the air. People are scared and are staying indoors," he said.
The US Embassy in Islamabad said it had no information on the incident.
Musharraf, an American ally in the war on terror, reluctantly ended his nine-year presidency Monday in the face of efforts by the governing coalition to have him impeached.
The two main parties - united primarily in their hatred of Musharraf - have many challenges ahead, from battling extremist violence to reining in inflation.
Also on the agenda was the presidency, which is expected to be a largely ceremonial role next time around. The new leader will be elected by lawmakers, a process that is supposed to be completed within the next 25 days.