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Pakistani Jets Killed Civilians, Not Just Militants, Officials Say


Government officials and survivors say a number of civilians were among 71 people killed during a Pakistani airstrike on Saturday, even as the military insists the bombing targeted only militants.

Villagers and government sources Tuesday said those killed actually were tribesmen who had gathered at a house in the northwestern Khyber region. The exact number of civilians or militants killed is still unclear.

A political official said regional authorities already have set aside $125,000 in compensation for the victims' families.

Fighter jets first bombed the house Saturday morning. Villagers say that when people arrived to help remove bodies, the house was hit again.

Residents say Pakistani forces had wrong information and that the community had a history of cooperating with the military. The owner of the home that was bombed has two sons serving in Pakistan's army.

Military officials denied that civilians were killed.

Pakistan has recently stepped up its offensive in the northwestern regions of Khyber and neighboring Orakzai, hoping to flush out remaining Taliban strongholds. However, civilian casualties could compromise support from local villages to help their cause.

Khyber is the main supply route for NATO troops through Pakistan into Afghanistan. Militants are blamed for frequent attacks on NATO convoys traveling through the region.

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