Pakistani security officials say at least eight people have been killed
in a suspected U.S. missile strike in northwest Pakistan. Observers
believe the United States has carried out more than 20 missile attacks
by unmanned spy planes in tribal areas since August, targeting hideouts
of al-Qaida and Taliban militants blamed for attacks in Afghanistan.
Officials say the latest missile attack targeted militants in the volatile South Waziristan tribal region. The pre-dawn strikes by suspected U.S drones hit two vehicles at different locations and killed most of those onboard the vehicles.
Witnesses say militants in one of the vehicles fired shots at the drone with an anti-aircraft gun before the missile destroyed it. It is not known whether any high-profile al-Qaida or Taliban leaders were killed in the strikes.
Media reports say the United States has carried out about 30 air strikes in Pakistan this year.
Pakistan insists its security forces are engaged in successful anti-insurgent operations to secure the border with Afghanistan. But Pakistani leaders say U.S drone attacks are undermining the country's sovereignty and efforts to win support of the local population against militant forces.
Speaking in the southern city of Karachi hours after the attack, Pakistan Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani said government troops will continue attacking militants to discourage them from undermining the government's authority.
"When the writ of the government is challenged when the militants start blowing [up] the girls schools when they start blowing [up] the barber shops when they hit the law enforcement agencies, then we do not allow them to have a parallel government and for that there is an army action and that is the deterrence," he said.
Pakistan is a close U.S ally and has deployed more than 100,000 troops in the tribal areas to fight extremists linked to the Taliban and al-Qaida.
The government has long been under criticism from opposition parties for not taking a firm diplomatic stance against the missile attacks by U.S drones. They say the strikes may be part of a secret deal between Islamabad and Washington, but the government denies the allegations. The attacks have killed at least 200 people, mostly militants.