ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (AP) – U.S. missile attacks on suspected militants within Pakistan are destabilizing the country and “helping the terrorists,” Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry said Friday.
American forces have carried out at least 11 assaults on targets on the Pakistan side of the Afghan border since Aug. 23, killing more than 100 people, most of them alleged militants, according to an Associated Press count based on figures provided by Pakistan intelligence officials.
The United States rarely confirms or denies the attacks, which Pakistan’s military and civilian leaders have criticized as violations of the country’s sovereignty.
“We want them (the United States) to realize that these attacks are destabilizing the situation, and they are not helping them or Pakistan,” Pakistan foreign ministry spokesman Mohammed Sadiq told reporters. “They are helping the terrorists.”
The strikes are unpopular among many Pakistanis and used by critics and Muslim conservatives to rally support in their campaign to unseat the country’s broadly secular, pro-U.S. government.
The most recent alleged U.S. attack took place late Thursday in north Waziristan and killed at least nine people, between six and eight of them suspected foreign militants, intelligence officials said. They said they were trying to establish the identities of the victims.
Al-Qaeda and Taliban militants have used Pakistan’s tribal areas as bases from which to attack U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, spurring U.S. frustration with Pakistan.
The tribal regions also are considered potential hiding places for al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden, his deputy Ayman al-Zawahri and other non-Pakistani militants.
Insurgents based in the region are also blamed by Pakistan for a surge in attacks within its borders, including the Sept. 20 bombing of the Marriott Hotel, which killed 54 people.
Pakistan insists it is trying to fight the militants, and notes it has sent tens of thousands of troops to the border region to battle them, sustaining heavy losses in the process.
Government official Jamil Ahmad accused the militants of beheading four pro-government tribal elders on Thursday in Bajur, scene of the some of the heaviest fighting between troops and insurgents in recent weeks.