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Pakistanis: Suspected US drone shot down

By Asif Shahzad
Associated Press / September 24, 2008
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ISLAMABAD, Pakistan - Pakistani soldiers and tribesman shot down a suspected US military drone close to the Afghan border last night, three intelligence officials said.

If verified, it apparently would be the first time a pilotless aircraft was brought down over Pakistan and probably would add to tensions between Washington and Islamabad over recent American cross-border incursions into the country's lawless tribal regions.

The three officials said the aircraft was hit at the village of Jalal Khel in South Waziristan after circling the area for several hours. Wreckage was strewn on the ground, they said, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief the media.

A US military spokesman in Afghanistan, Captain Christian Patterson, said officials were looking into the claim.

The report came a day after intelligence officers said two US helicopters crossed a mile into Pakistan late Sunday over North Waziristan but flew off after Pakistani troops and tribesmen opened fire. The Pentagon denied any incursion by US helicopters.

South Waziristan and other tribal areas in Pakistan's northwest are a haven for Al Qaeda and Taliban militants who cross into Afghanistan to attack American and NATO troops as well as for Pakistani extremists who are striking targets in Pakistan.

Militants with roots in the border region are suspected in Saturday's truck bombing at the Marriott hotel in Islamabad. The attack killed 53 people, among them the Czech ambassador and two US Defense Department employees, and wounded about 270.

Washington wants Islamabad to do more to root out the extremists, but Pakistan says it has deployed tens of thousands of soldiers to the area and they regularly battle insurgents.

In the latest fighting, troops backed by helicopter gunships and artillery killed at least 50 militants in the Kohat region since Monday, an army spokesman, Major Murad Khan, said. One solider also died, he said. Khan said the military regained control of a mountain road tunnel seized by insurgents several days ago.

The US military identified the two Americans killed in the Marriott bombing as Air Force Major Rodolfo I. Rodriguez, 34, of El Paso, and Navy Petty Officer Matthew O'Bryant, 22, of Theodore, Ala.

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