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U.S. Missile Strike Kills 12 Afghans In Pakistan

Jalaluddin Haqqani

Jalaluddin Haqqani

MIRANSHAH, Pakistan (Reuters) -- A U.S. drone aircraft has killed 12 Afghan militants in a missile strike in Pakistan near the house of an Afghan Taliban commander allied to Al-Qaeda, intelligence officials and residents said.

Four missiles hit a house shortly before midnight on September 24 in a North Waziristan, about 15 kilometers from the Afghan border.

Pakistani security officials initially said three people had been killed but an intelligence agency official said on September 25 that 12 Afghan militants were killed.

"All those killed were Afghans; men who had come from Logar," a villager said referring to an Afghan province south of the capital, Kabul.

Frustrated by an intensifying Afghan insurgency getting support form bases in lawless northwestern Pakistani border enclaves, the United States stepped up its attacks with pilotless drones last year.

There have been about 57 such strikes since the beginning of 2008 in which about 500 people have been killed, many of them militants, according to a tally of reports from Pakistani security agents and residents.

The former owner of the house struck in the September 24 attack was a relative of Jalaluddin Haqqani, a veteran Afghan militant commander who is also a senior Taliban leader, and who lives near by, a Pakistani security official said.

The owner of the house was killed in Afghanistan last year, he said.

Haqqani, who was in the past known to be close to Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, is said to be sick and his group is now led by his son, Sirajuddin.

The so-called Haqqani Network is one of the main Taliban factions battling U.S.-led forces in Afghanistan. U.S. drones have carried out several missile strikes in the area in recent months.

The United States is stepping up pressure on Pakistan to go after Afghan Taliban groups in border strongholds.

General Stanley McChrystal, the commander of U.S and NATO forces in Afghanistan, said in an assessment leaked to the media this week the Afghan insurgency was supported from Pakistan and Afghanistan needed Pakistani action.

Pakistan officially objects to the drone strikes saying they violate its sovereignity and undermine its efforts to win over the ethnic Pashtun tribes along the border.

But Pakistani media said a attack that killed Pakistani Taliban chief Baitullah Mehsud in August was carried out with the coordination of the Pakistani government.