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Fugitive British Militant Killed in Strike in Pakistan


Officials and tribal witnesses in Pakistan say a suspected U.S missile strike has killed at least five militants, including several foreigners in a remote region near the Afghan border. A fugitive British militant linked to a 2006 terror plot to blow up trans-Atlantic airlines and an Egyptian al-Qaida operative are said to be among those killed in the attack. Ayaz Gul reports from Islamabad.

The early morning missile strike by a suspected unmanned U.S. aircraft destroyed a house in the North Waziristan tribal region, which Taliban and al-Qaida militants are using to stage attacks on foreign forces in Afghanistan.

An al-Qaida-linked British militant, Rashid Rauf, is said to be among those killed in Saturday's attack. Western intelligence officials believe the man played a key role in a 2006 terror plot meant to blow up trans-Atlantic passenger flights.

Media reports say that an Egyptian al-Qaida operative identified as Abu Zubair al-Misri was also killed in the suspected U.S. missile strike on their hideout in the remote village of Alikhel.

Unmanned U.S planes are believed to have carried out more than 20 missile attacks since August targeting militant bases on the Pakistani side of the border.

But critics, like former Pakistan Interior Secretary Tasneem Noorani, say that so far neither Pakistani nor American officials have presented any proof of killing high-profile militants in these attacks. He says that such actions mostly depend on human intelligence network on the ground that might be guiding these strikes.

"Those people inform them of the location of these high-value targets, and they strike. But whether actually they have found the actual target I think it is difficult to really confirm whatever the claim is," he said.

British-Pakistani Rauf was arrested and was under trial in an anti-terror court in Pakistan but late last year he escaped from the custody of Pakistani police after appearing in a hearing in Islamabad.

The British government had sought his extradition to London, where he was wanted in connection with the murder of his uncle.

U.S. officials neither confirm nor deny these missile attacks. But Pakistani leaders complain such actions undermine their nation's sovereignty and collateral damage in these attacks is feeding Islamic extremism in Pakistan.

Addressing Indian media and business community by teleconference from Islamabad on Saturday, President Asif Ali Zardari voiced hope that after taking office President-elect Barack Obama will review and halt attacks inside Pakistan.

"In fact I am looking forward to interacting with him and asking him and sitting on the map and to revisit the whole situation in the region and hopefully to find a solution to all the problems that we have, not just terrorism," he said.

Early this week, Taliban militants based in the North Waziristan region of Pakistan threatened they will launch revenge suicide missions and attack foreigners as well a government targets across the country unless U.S. raids are stopped.

Meanwhile, on Saturday, suspected Taliban militants attacked a security post in the district of Bannu with rockets and gunfire killing three security personnel.