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Ten Said Killed In U.S. Missile Attack In Pakistan

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) -- At least 10 people have been killed in a missile attack by a pilotless U.S. aircraft in the northwestern Pakistani region of North Waziristan, a suspected haven for militants on the Afghan border, a security official said.

The strike, near the town of Miranshah, was the first since a recent surge in tension between Pakistan and the United States over how to tackle the Taliban and Al-Qaeda on the Pakistani side of the border.

"Yes, missiles have been fired. We have reports that more than 10 people were killed," a security official said. Another security official said 12 people were also wounded.

Residents said two missiles were fired at a former government school where militants and their families were living in Tool Kheil village, 5 kilometers east of Miranshah.

An intensifying insurgency in Afghanistan has raised fears about its prospects seven years after U.S.-led forces ousted the Taliban. That worry has compounded pressure on Pakistan to go after militants operating from enclaves on its side of the border, including in North Waziristan.

Security forces stepped up offensives in two areas in August, the Bajaur region on the Afghan border, where the military said up to 100 militants were killed on Thursday, and the Swat Valley in North West Frontier Province.

Hours after the September 12 missile strike, a roadside bomb hit a security convoy in a nearby village, seriously wounding two soldiers. Soldiers in the convoy opened fire after the blast, wounding four civilians, residents said.

Fears about Afghanistan's future and frustration with Pakistani efforts to tackle the militants has led to more U.S. missile attacks by drone aircraft in Pakistan.

About a dozen strikes this year have killed scores of militants and some civilians.

But in addition to missile strikes, helicopter-borne U.S. commandos carried out a ground assault in Pakistan's South Waziristan last week, the first such known incursion into Pakistan by U.S. troops since the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan.

Pakistan condemned the raid in which officials said 20 people, including women and children, were killed.

The U.S. military raised fears of more incursions on September 10, saying it was not winning in Afghanistan and would revise its strategy to combat militant havens in Pakistan.

Pakistani Army chief General Ashfaq Kayani said in a strongly worded statement that Pakistan would not allow foreign troops onto its soil and Pakistan's sovereignty and territorial integrity would be defended at "all cost."

Kayani also dismissed speculation of a secret deal allowing U.S. forces to cross the border.

"The New York Times" reported on September 11 that President George W. Bush had secretly approved orders in July that for the first time allowed U.S. special forces to carry out ground assaults inside Pakistan without the approval of the Pakistani government.

U.S. officials declined to comment on the report and Pakistan's U.S. ambassador, Husain Haqqani, told Reuters Bush had not issued new orders.

Tension with the United States has added to the worries of investors who have seen Pakistan's financial markets battered by political turmoil and economic problems.

At the same time, Pakistan is highly vulnerable to any reduction in U.S. financial support, given the depletion of foreign reserves, which has sparked talk it could default on a sovereign bond next year unless it gets foreign financing.