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Missile Strike Kills Nine Militants In Pakistan

WANA, Pakistan -- At least nine militants were killed in a missile strike on their training camp in Pakistan's South Waziristan region, near the Afghan border, security officials and residents say.

In a separate incident, a militant faction leader was shot and killed by a gunman at his office in a mosque in a northwestern town.

Militant violence has been plaguing the nuclear-armed U.S. ally and helping to undermine investor confidence, as a crisis looms over attempts by a new coalition government to oust the unpopular President Pervez Musharraf.

U.S. forces stationed in Afghanistan have carried out several drone-launched missile attacks this year in Pakistan's border regions, known as sanctuaries for Al-Qaeda and Taliban militants.

Last month, Al-Qaeda chemical and biological weapons expert Abu Khabab al-Masri was killed in a similar strike in South Waziristan.

The latest attack took place late on August 12 in Bhagar, about 35 kilometers west of Wana, the main town in the region, they said.

Four Missiles

An intelligence official in South Waziristan, who declined to be identified, told Reuters that at least four missiles were fired from across the border hitting one of two militant training camps.

"This camp was run by Hizb-e Islami and there were about 15 people including foreigners there at the time of the attack," he said referring to a militant faction allied with the Taliban.

Militants sealed off the area and were not letting anyone approach, he said.

"They aren't even letting residents who live nearby go there but our information is that they have recovered nine bodies," he said.

Residents said aircraft had been flying over the area.

Pakistani military spokesman were not available for comment.

A U.S. military spokesman in Afghanistan denied any involvement and a spokesman for a separate NATO-led force said he had no reports of any fire into Pakistan.

Predator drone aircraft, that can fire missiles and are operated by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, have launched several strikes in Pakistani border areas this year.

Faction Leader Killed

Separately, in Bara town in Pakistan's Khyber region, Islamist faction leader Haji Namdar was shot dead as he attended a meeting at his office, where in May he escaped a suicide bomb attack.

"They were three men who suddenly stood up during the meeting and one of them opened fire on him," said Zahir Shah, a close ally of Namdar's.

The attacker was captured while the other two men escaped, Shah said.

Namdar led a group called the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, which promoted Taliban-style rule, but he had was known to have had differences with Pakistan's main Taliban group.

Rival militant groups have been competing for influence in the Khyber region, west of the city of Peshawar, where security forces recently conducted a sweep to push militants back from the outskirts of Peshawar.