A suspected U.S. missile strike by an unmanned plane has destroyed an al-Qaida hideout in a remote Pakistani border region, killing at least 20 people and wounding many others.
The early morning missile attack took place in the hostile South Waziristan tribal region, which borders Afghanistan and is known for harboring al-Qaida and Taliban militants.
Local intelligence officials and tribesmen said that two missiles fired by a suspected U.S drone targeted a militant training facility in the Zangari village. The attack has destroyed the camp and most of those killed were said to be local as well as foreign militants.
Witnesses said that Taliban fighters surrounded the area soon after the attack and transported the dead and wounded out to an unknown location.
The latest drone attack coincides with U.S special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Holbrooke's visit to the region. He met with Pakistani leaders earlier this week and is currently in Kabul to explore new ways to fight terrorism.
His "fact-finding" mission is meant to help U.S. President Barack Obama's administration devise an effective policy in what many say is the most problematic region on earth.
Critics like former security chief for the federally administered Pakistani tribal regions, Mehmood Shah, maintain that the policy of drone attacks is causing major problems for an important U.S ally like Pakistan.
"With this [missile attacks], I think this problem [of militancy] is becoming more and more difficult for Pakistan to handle," he said. "The militants' activities have no popularity in Pakistan. However, when the Americans sort of become involved in Pakistan, it gives them [militants] a reason. I am sure that we would have presented our case very strongly to Mr. Holbrooke and that I think we should make the respect for our territory as a pre-condition for any role that we have to play in this war on terror."
The American CIA-operated unmanned planes have carried out at least 30 missile attacks on Pakistani territory since the middle of last year. They have generally targeted al-Qaida and Taliban militants. Pakistani officials oppose the attacks as a violation of their territorial limits and maintain that civilian deaths in these missile strikes are helping the cause of militants.
Pakistani troops have launched major air and ground operations against militants in the tribal regions in the past several years and have claimed successes. But a wave of suicide bombings and rising attacks on security forces outside the tribal areas in recent months have raised questions about the effectiveness of country's anti-militants campaign.