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Pakistani Officials Say 12 Killed in US Missile Strike


Officials and witnesses in Pakistan say a suspected U.S. missile strike has killed at least 12 people, including foreign militants, in a remote tribal region bordering Afghanistan. The attack comes as gunmen shot and wounded a Japanese journalist and his Afghan colleague near the northwestern city of Peshawar. Ayaz Gul reports from Islamabad.

The missile attack by a suspected unmanned U.S. drone is said to have targeted an al-Qaida hideout in the North Waziristan tribal region. Most of those killed are described as foreign militants.

Pakistan's tribal regions lining the border with Afghanistan are believed to be used by militants linked to al-Qaida and Taliban for attacks on both sides of the border.

Speaking in Washington on Thursday, CIA Director Michael Hayden said the Pakistani regions represent, as he put it, the greatest terrorism threat to the United States.

In recent weeks, unmanned U.S. drones have stepped up missile strikes against militant bases on the Pakistani side of the border to discourage cross-border raids on NATO and Afghan targets.

But Pakistani leaders have protested these attacks, saying they often kill civilians and fuel support for extremists. In his reaction to Friday's missile strike, chief of the Federal Interior Ministry, Rehman Malik, reiterated Pakistan's stance.

"We have been protesting, we are lodging very serious complaints, and our protest to the U.S. government to stop it because this is the voice of the people of Pakistan," said Malik. "And I hope the U.S. authorities will listen to the voice of the people of Pakistan."

Pakistan is a close U.S. ally in the war against terrorism but the missile strikes inside Pakistani territory have increased pressure on the government to review its policy. Many in Pakistan believe a wave of deadly suicide bombings and attacks on foreign nationals as well as diplomats are a reaction to the ongoing anti-insurgent operations by the Pakistani military in parts of northwest of the country.

Security in the country has deteriorated recently, particularly in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. Unknown gunmen abducted a senior Iranian diplomat there on Thursday, a day after an American aid worker and his driver were shot dead in the city.

Early Friday, Japanese journalist Motoki Yotsukura and his Afghan colleague Sami Yousufzai were shot and wounded on the outskirts of the Pakistani city. Speaking by telephone from Peshawar, a senior police officer in the area, Jawad Qamar, gave details of the incident to VOA.

"They went across into the tribal area they wanted to interview a Taliban commander they came back towards the settled area they sat in their cars and unknown criminal fired pistol shots at them," said Qamar. "The Japanese journalist was injured in his ankle. The Afghan journalist was injured in the chest."

Friday's missile strike and violence in Pakistan coincided with a visit to Islamabad by the U.S. commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan.

General David McKiernan met with Pakistani parliamentarians at the U.S. embassy Thursday night to brief them on the security situation in Afghanistan and efforts to counter terrorism. No details of the discussions have been released to reporters. A spokesman for the U.S. embassy told VOA that the briefing was part of Washington's continued "outreach" to Pakistani lawmakers.