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Pakistan Protests Missile Strikes


There is a widespread anger and outrage in Pakistan over the latest suspected U.S. missile strike against a terrorist target deep inside the country. Taliban militants have threatened to launch revenge attacks across Pakistan unless the United States puts an end to the attacks. Ayaz Gul reports from Islamabad the foreign ministry summoned the U.S ambassador to protest the missile strikes, saying they are undermining public support for Pakistan's anti-terror campaign.

In the past two months, the United States is believed to have launched about 20 missile strikes targeting al-Qaida and Taliban bases in Pakistan's semi-autonomous tribal region that borders Afghanistan. The attacks are said to have killed dozens of people.

The United States neither confirms nor denies it is behind the missile strikes, but U.S. officials are reported as saying they have killed key al-Qaida operatives in Pakistan in recent months.

On Wednesday, a suspected U.S. missile strike hit a target outside the tribal area in the district of Bannu. The strike killed several al-Qaida-linked militants.

That strike, which was deep inside Pakistan outraged the government and opposition parties. U.S. ambassador Ann Paterson was summoned to the foreign ministry to receive a strong protest.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammed Sadiq says the U.S. ambassador was told these attacks must be stopped.

"So [the U.S.] ambassador of course, she was summoned," he said. "This is a diplomatic step. She assured us that she would convey our concerns and our position to the U.S government."

Earlier, speaking in the National Assembly, parliament's lower house, Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani called the missile attacks "intolerable", saying they are counterproductive for Pakistan's war against terrorism and are adding to his government's problems.

Mr. Gilani voiced hope that President-elect Barack Obama's administration will show more restraint and these attacks will be stopped.

But critics of Pakistan's government allege a secret deal between Islamabad and Washington has paved the way for U.S. missile strikes inside Pakistani territory, a charge Prime Minister Gilani and other officials have denied.

The opposition leader in the National Assembly, Nisar Ali Khan, says mere criticism of the missile strikes on part of the government is not enough.

"Over the last five weeks the number of drone attacks has multiplied," he said. "We should say enough is enough. We should send a clear message to our friends, the Americans, that in case there is another drone attack then we should review the facilities for transit that we have provided to our American friends for passing through the territory of Pakistan"

Meanwhile, Taliban militants in the North Waziristan tribal region have threatened to carry out suicide attacks on foreigners and official targets if there are new U.S. attacks.