News / Asia

US Drone Strike Kills 15 Militants, Says Pakistan

File photo of an unmanned aerial aircraft.
File photo of an unmanned aerial aircraft.

Pakistani intelligence officials say a U.S. missile attack close to the Afghan border has killed at least eight people. Friday's strike from a U.S. drone was the first since the raid that killed Osama bin Laden May 2.

Authorities say the aerial drone attack targeted a compound in North Waziristan, a stronghold of Taliban and al-Qaida militants on the border with Afghanistan.

U.S. drone strikes against militants based in Pakistan's tribal region have been a source of friction between the two countries.  The strikes are extremely unpopular in Pakistan because of the perception of high civilian casualties from the attacks and because many Pakistanis feel they are a violation of their country’s sovereignty.  U.S. officials say the missile attacks target militants along the Afghan border.

The latest drone strike could further exacerbate tensions, which are already running high after U.S. commandoes killed Osama bin Laden in a nighttime raid on his compound in Abbottabad, not far from the Pakistani capital.

Islamist groups called demonstrations across Pakistan Friday to protest the killing of bin Laden. Demonstrations did take place in Karachi, Peshawar, Rawalpindi and Quetta and local reports estimated they drew a total of about 1,500 people. In Quetta, demonstrators carried signs condemning the U.S. raid and speakers said new leaders would take their place at the head of al-Qaida to oppose the United States.

Speaking to journalists outside the parliament building Friday, Chaudry Nisar, the head of the opposition in Pakistan's national assembly, said Pakistani officials had to take responsibility for their mistakes.

Speaking in Urdu, Nisar said his country’s honor had been tarnished by the bin Laden affair and that Pakistan’s current leaders had to pay the price.  In Nisar’s words, “Someone at the top must resign. Some heads must roll.”

Although Pakistan’s government expressed objections to the raid that killed bin Laden as a violation of its sovereignty, it also said his death was a milestone in the fight against terrorism.

Since the covert U.S. raid, there has been widespread criticism in Pakistan about how the government has released information on the incident and about the presence of Osama bin Laden on Pakistani soil.   Many Pakistani's say the raid also exposed weaknesses in the country's defense, something Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir denied on Thursday.

"There is no reason for Pakistanis to feel demoralized. We are proud of our achievements. We are proud of our defense capabilities. We are proud of our armed forces. We are proud of our track record in anti-terror, which is equal to none. And I think we have to look to the future and not be mired in the past."

Pakistan has denied knowing the al-Qaida leader's whereabouts prior to the U.S. raid.  On Thursday the army threatened to cut intelligence and military cooperation with the United States if it mounted more attacks on Pakistani soil.

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