Pakistan Irked Over U.S. Missile Strikes

In this photo taken on Monday, July 6, 2009, a local child strolls over debris of a house destroyed by Pakistani security forces during a search operation against militants, in Kolachi, near Dera Ismail Khan. (AP Photo/Ishtiaq Mahsud)
AP Photo/Ishtiaq Mahsud
Suspected U.S. missiles and Pakistani fighter jets attacked followers of a notorious militant leader close to the Afghan border Tuesday, but the army complained the American strikes were hurting its campaign against the country's public enemy No. 1.

Between 12 and 14 militants were killed when two missiles hit a training camp run by Pakistani Taliban chief Baitullah Mehsud in South Waziristan tribal region, intelligence officials said on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to media. The missiles were believed fired by American drones.

Five foreigners were among the dead, but their nationalities were not known, the officials said. Top Arab leaders of the al Qaeda terror network are believed to be hiding in the region, as well as scores of militants from nearby countries such as Afghanistan and Uzbekistan.

Mehsud was not among the victims of the strike, the fourth in the space of two weeks targeting him or his followers.

Hours after the strikes, Pakistani war planes bombed militants positions around 25 miles away, the army said. Casualties in those strikes were unknown.

The army insisted it was not coordinating the missile strikes with Washington and reiterated its opposition to them despite the damage they were inflicting on Mehsud's followers.

"It hurts the campaign rather than helps," said Maj. Gen Athar Abbas, arguing that they alienate local tribes whose support the military needs to defeat Mehsud.

The United States is believed to have launched more than 40 missile strikes against targets in the border area since last August, according to a count by The Associated Press.

Washington does not directly acknowledge being responsible for launching the missiles, which have killed civilians as well as militants and contributed to anti-U.S. sentiment in Pakistan.

Any admission Islamabad works with the United States in attacks on its citizens likely would be damaging for the shaky civilian government. Most experts, however, believe the country's civilian and military leaders secretly endorse the strikes and likely provide the United States with intelligence on possible targets.

Washington wants to see Pakistan crack down on militants close to the border that also attack NATO and US troops in Afghanistan.

Three months ago, the Pakistan army launched an offensive in the Swat Valley, earning praise in the West.

Last month, it said it was undertaking an offfensive in South Waziristan to kill or capture Mehsud, who is blamed for most of the bloodiest bombings to hit the nuclear-armed country in recent years.