ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (AP) – A suspected U.S. missile strike killed at least eight people Friday in a Pakistani village close to the Afghan border, security officials said, the latest in a surge of attacks that a top American general said has eliminated three militant leaders.
The strikes are likely to trigger fresh anger from Pakistan’s civil and military leaders, who say they undercut support for their anti-terror efforts, and from many of its 170 million people.
The suspected cross-border attack took place in Kam Sam village in the North Waziristan region, a stronghold of Taliban and al-Qaida militants blamed for attacks on U.S. troops in Afghanistan and rising violence within Pakistan.
One Pakistani security official said 10 people died. Another put the toll at eight. The identity of the victims was not clear and it was not immediately possible to reconcile the differing tallies.
Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media. They said they received information from informants and agents on the ground.
Unmanned U.S. aircraft are believed to have carried out at least 18 missile strikes in Pakistan’s wild border area since August.
Friday’s attack was the first since the installation of Gen. David Petraeus as head of the U.S. Central Command on Oct. 31, giving him overall command of the wars in both Iraq and Afghanistan, and the first since Barack Obama won America’s presidential election.
Petraeus told The Associated Press in an interview in Afghanistan on Thursday that the strikes had killed three “extremist leaders” in recent months.
Pakistani leaders said they told Petraeus to stop the cross-border strikes when he visited their country earlier this week. He said he would “take on board” what they said, but gave no promise the attacks would stop.
The United States rarely confirms or denies firing the missiles and the identities of those killed are rarely confirmed. Villagers frequently say civilians are among the dead.
U.S. officials have been frustrated at what they say is insufficient Pakistani action against extremists in the border area, a mountainous zone where the government has never had much control.
The Pakistan army is embroiled in an offensive against militants in Bajur, another part of the border region, and is trying to persuade local tribes to join the fight, a task it says is made more difficult by the U.S. attacks because of the anger they generate.
Pakistani helicopters and jets killed 17 suspected militants and wounded 10 others in Bajur late Thursday, said Jamil Khan, the No. 2 government representative in the semiautonomous area.
Hours earlier, two suicide attacks targeting pro-government tribesmen and security forces killed at least 19 people and wounded dozens more.
One of them struck in Bajur, killing 17 pro-government Salarzai tribesmen who had formed a militia to combat insurgents. Forty other people were hurt, officials said. In the nearby Swat Valley, a suicide car bomber rammed his vehicle into a checkpoint near a police compound, killing at least two paramilitary troops and wounding 20 other people, officials said.