Wednesday, September 10, 2008

US War Update: 21 Killed in Missile Strike; Spies Mistake

21 killed in missile strike


MIRANSHAH--AT least 21 people — including women and children— were killed yesterday in a missile strike by suspected US drones on a Pakistani tribal town near the Afghan border, officials said.

The drones fired several missiles that hit a house near a madrassa or Islamic seminary in North Waziristan, the officials said, in the fourth such strike in the rugged tribal region in almost a week.

"Seven civilians and 14 militants have died in the missile strike," an intelligence official said, hours after the 11am strike.

Women and children were among the dead, as well as the militants, including nine "foreigners" believed to be of Arab origin.

A security official said more than 25 people had been wounded.

"The latest casualties include an important Arab militant identified as just Hamza and two other Arabs identified as Musa and Qasim," the official said but was unable to give full names immediately.

Some of the injured were in critical condition, hospital officials said.

Foreigner is a term used by Pakistani authorities for Al Qaeda militants.

The drones were apparently targeting the house or the madrassa established by former Taliban commander Jalaluddin Haqqani during the 1978-88 Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, residents said.

Haqqani, who was a close aid to fugitive Taliban leader Mullah Omar, has not been seen since the fall of the hardline regime in Afghanistan in 2001.

Residents said two pilotless aircraft circled over Dande Darpakhel, three kilometres north of the region’s main town of Miranshah, before at least one drone fired several missiles.

On Friday, three children and two women were killed in the same region during a suspected strike by a pilotless aircraft.

At least five militants were also killed the day before when a missile fired from an unmanned plane hit a house in the North Waziristan village of Mohammad Khel, officials said.

The latest strike follows Pakistani claims that US-led forces based in Afghanistan killed 15 people in a border village in neighbouring South Waziristan district last week.

That attack was condemned by Pakistan’s parliament and the foreign minister, who issued a tough statement calling the incident "shameful" and stating that only women and children had been targeted.

Around 3 000 Pakistani tribesmen chanted "Allahu Akbar" and "Death to America" in Wana, the district’s main town, after Friday prayers to protest against that raid, which involved helicopter gunships and ground troops.

Both the US-led coalition and the separate Nato-led security force operating in Afghanistan have said they have no knowledge of the incident. — AFP.

‘US spies’ mistake led to Afghan deaths’


MADRID-- Air strikes in Afghanistan, which Kabul and the United Nations say killed 90 civilians on August 22, were carried out on the basis of misinformed United States intelligence, the Spanish radio station Cadena Ser said yesterday, citing Spanish military sources.

Operation Enduring Freedom, led by the US, says the air strikes were made during daylight and were aimed at a group of Taliban fighters who opened fire on their soldiers.

"Nevertheless, Spanish intelligence reports indicate that a mistake was made by the American spies," the Spanish station reported.

"American agents would have received an incorrect tip-off, an allegation made with a vested interest that came from a rival family to those of the victims, but which American intelligence judged to be correct," Cadena Ser said.

"According to Spanish military intelligence, the victims were sleeping at the time of the attack, having just marked the funeral of an important local tribal leader, who was killed by a rival clan — the same clan who supplied the information that led to the American attack," the station said.

The radio reported that the vast majority of victims came from the same family that had gathered together in the village to attend the funeral. Cadena Ser says that as many as 60 of the 90 victims were children.

American forces have consistently rejected the number, but said yesterday they would carry out a fresh investigation based on new details that have emerged.

If the UN figures are proved accurate, it would be one of the deadliest military blunders by international forces in Afghanistan for seven years.

Mobile phone footage, recorded by a local villager and obtained, shows at least 30 corpses, many of them children, lined up in a mosque ahead of their burial.

The coalition said on September 2 that an internal investigation had found that between five and seven non-combatants and 30-35 Taliban had died in air strikes on the village of Azizabad.

There are around 750 Spanish soldiers in Nato’s International Security Assistance Force that operates alongside American forces.

Spanish forces are mainly deployed in the Herat province where the attack took place. — AFP.

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