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US missiles kill 21 in Pakistan: officials
by Staff Writers
Miranshah, Pakistan (AFP) Aug 10, 2011

A US drone strike in Pakistan on Wednesday killed up to 21 Afghan fighters from the Al-Qaeda-linked Haqqani network, considered the top US foe in eastern Afghanistan, authorities said.

Pakistani officials said a US drone fired two missiles, destroying a vehicle and a compound in North Waziristan, the headquarters of the Haqqani leadership and the most infamous militant bastion in the semi-autonomous tribal belt.

"More dead bodies have been dug out of the debris. Twenty-one militants from the Haqqani group were killed and three were injured," a Pakistani security official told AFP in Peshawar, the largest city in the northwest.

"It was Haqqani's compound and his fighters were using it as a camp. They used to gather round for midnight food," said another Pakistani official, referring to Muslims' pre-dawn meal during the fasting month of Ramadan.

"All those killed were Haqqani's men and Afghans, but we have reports that some Arabs and Uzbeks were also present at the time of attack and were killed," the official added on condition of anonymity.

Although the United States does not publicly confirm Predator drone attacks, its military and the CIA in Afghanistan are the only forces that deploy the armed, unmanned Predator aircraft in the region.

Washington has called Pakistan's semi-autonomous northwest tribal region the global headquarters of Al-Qaeda, where Taliban and other Al-Qaeda-linked networks have rear bases in the 10-year war in Afghanistan.

The Haqqani network is considered the most dangerous enemy of US troops in eastern Afghanistan. It was founded by Jalaluddin Haqqani and is run by his son, Sirajuddin, both designated "global terrorists" by Washington.

The group has been blamed for some of the deadliest anti-US attacks in Afghanistan, including a suicide attack at a US base in the eastern province of Khost in 2009 that killed seven CIA operatives.

Pakistani officials said the missiles struck the Haqqani camp close to Miranshah, the main town in North Waziristan, at 2:15 am (2115 GMT Tuesday).

Some Pakistani officials put the death toll at 18 but acknowledged that more bodies were being dug out of the rubble. The officials said a pick-up vehicle parked outside the compound was also destroyed.

Residents in Miranshah reported hearing two huge blasts a minute apart as they were waking up for a night-time meal before the dawn-to-dusk Ramadan fast.

One resident told AFP that he later saw 16 coffins laid out in the back of vehicles, which were then taken to a nearby graveyard.

Around two dozen drone strikes have been reported in Pakistan since elite US forces killed Al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden in a suburban home near Pakistan's main military academy in Abbottabad, close to the capital, on May 2.

The raid humiliated Pakistan and prompted allegations of incompetence and complicity in sheltering bin Laden.

Pakistan is seen as a key ally for the United States in its fight against Islamist militancy, but relations have soured since the bin Laden raid, which both countries say was carried out without Islamabad being warned.

Drone attacks are unpopular among many Pakistanis, who oppose the alliance with Washington and who are sensitive to perceived violations of sovereignty.

US officials have accused Pakistani intelligence of playing a double game with extremists, including the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani network, in order to exert influence in Afghanistan and offset the might of arch-rival India.

Washington's pressure on Islamabad to launch a decisive military campaign in North Waziristan, as Pakistan has conducted elsewhere in the tribal belt, has so far fallen on deaf ears.

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Foreign troops kill Afghan police: Afghan commander
Kandahar, Afghanistan (AFP) Aug 10, 2011 - An Afghan police commander on Wednesday accused international troops of killing two policemen by accident in one of the most potent Taliban strongholds in the south.

Kandahar provincial police chief Abdul Raziq said the victims were members of the Afghan Local Police (ALP), an anti-Taliban initiative in which local people are recruited to protect their own villages.

A spokesman for NATO's US-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in the Afghan capital Kabul said the military was looking into what reportedly happened late Tuesday in the Arghandab district of Kandahar province.

"They were mistaken for insurgents," Raziq told AFP. "The police returned fire and there was a brief exchange of fire."

Faiz Mohammad, who worked alongside the dead men, said they were praying when they came under fire from foreign forces. He added that four other people were wounded and evacuated by ISAF for treatment.

Like Muslims across the world, Afghans are currently observing the holy month of Ramadan in which faithful fast from dawn to dusk.

An ISAF spokesman said it was investigating the incident.

"We're aware of an incident in Kandahar province. A joint Afghan and ISAF investigation is underway. We're investigating this," a spokesman said.

The Afghan government has frequently criticised NATO troops over friendly fire incidents and operations in which civilians are killed.

In late May, President Hamid Karzai issued his "last warning" to the US military to avoid "arbitrary" operations that kill Afghan civilians, saying such incidents were tantamount to "murder".

The warning came after an air strike in which Karzai said 14 civilians, including 11 children, were killed in the southern province of Helmand.

There are around 140,000 international forces in Afghanistan fighting the Taliban and other insurgents, alongside Afghan government forces. Around 100,000 of them are American.

Some troop withdrawals have already started as part of a drawdown, which should see all foreign combat forces leave Afghanistan by the end of 2014 but analysts question the ability of Afghan forces to fight the insurgency.

Kandahar is considered the birthplace of the Taliban.

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US officers oppose releasing names of dead troops
Washington (AFP) Aug 9, 2011
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