US missiles kill 16 in Pakistan hide-out
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — US missiles hit a suspected militant hide-out, killing 16 insurgents before dawn yesterday in a troubled Pakistani tribal region along the Afghan border, intelligence officials said.
Admiral Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, also met yesterday with top military officials in Pakistan, a key US ally in the battle against Islamist extremists.
The six missiles struck a compound in the Nazai Narai area of South Waziristan. The hide-out was known to be frequented by foreign fighters, who were among the dead, two intelligence officials said.
The intelligence officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to go on the record, said agents were trying to get more details about the identities and nationalities of the dead insurgents.
Army spokesmen were not immediately available for comment.
Mullen met yesterday with Pakistan’s army chief, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, who was recently granted a three-year term extension, a sign of the desire for continuity in Pakistan’s battle against Islamist extremists.
The American Embassy described Mullen’s visit as being part of “the regular bilateral consultations between the US and Pakistan.’’
US missile strikes regularly pound extremist targets in the northwest. South Waziristan has witnessed several major Pakistani military operations since the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States.
Washington has relied heavily on its covert missile campaign to take out Al Qaeda, Afghan Taliban, and their local supporters in North and South Waziristan tribal regions, which are hiding places for insurgents.
Most of the strikes have hit targets in North Waziristan — home to several militant networks that attack US forces in Afghanistan.
Although Pakistan publicly condemns the missile strikes, it has secretly helped Washington in previous attacks.
In retaliation, militants have been attacking Pakistani security forces and government officials in addition to carrying out suicide bombings across the country.
Yesterday, gunmen killed the son of northwest Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province’s information minister, Mian Iftikhar Hussain, who comes from a secular party and is highly critical of the Taliban.
Hussain’s son, a government servant, was killed by two gunmen in his native Naushehra district while out for a stroll, police official Nisar Khan said. Pakistani Interior Minister Rehman Malik attributed the killing to Taliban militants. “This is the price we are paying,’’ he said.
Pakistan’s importance to the American war effort in Afghanistan has been underscored by how frequently top US political and military leaders pass through Islamabad and nearby Rawalpindi, where the Pakistani Army has its headquarters.
American officials have made it clear they would like to see aggressive action taken against Taliban militants like the Al Qaeda-allied Haqqani network that is based in Pakistan but fights mostly in Afghanistan.