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Missile Strike in Pakistan Destroys Suspected Militant Hideout

A missile strike against a suspected militant hideout in a Pakistan tribal region bordering Afghanistan on Sunday is said to have killed at least 18 people. From Islamabad, Ayaz Gul reports.

The attack took place in Wana, the administrative center of the South Waziristan tribal region. Residents say the missile strike destroyed the house of a suspected militant tribal leader identified as Noorullah, and most of the deaths occurred immediately.

Local media reports there were foreign nationals, including some Arabs present in the compound when the attack took place.

It is not clear who fired the missiles, but U.S-led coalition forces based in Afghanistan have in the past carried out attacks inside the Pakistani border region, a known safe haven for al-Qaida and Taliban militants.

Officials of the coalition forces across the Afghan border have not commented on the incident.

Speaking to VOA, army spokesman Major-General Athar Abbas distanced the Pakistani military from the incident.

"About five to six explosions were heard from this area of Wana," Abbas said. "And exactly what is the nature of the explosion, and whether there are casualties or not I have not got any confirmed information."

General Abbas says a military team has been sent to the scene to investigate the blast.

A suspected U.S missile strike in January in the adjoining North Waziristan region killed a senior al-Qaida leader, Abu Laith al-Libi. The details of his death are still uncertain, but media reports at that time quoted un-named American officials as saying an un-manned CIA drone carried out the missile attack.

Pakistani authorities described that incident as an accidental explosion in a militant hideout and did not confirm the killing of al-Libi.

Analysts say both Pakistan and the United States fear that any official confirmation of such missile strikes inside the Pakistani border may fuel anti-American sentiment.