ISLAMABAD (AP) – Suspected U.S. missiles slammed into a training camp ran by Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud on Tuesday, killing at least 12 militants in the latest in a flurry of strikes against him and his followers, intelligence officials said.
Five foreigners were among the dead in the attack in South Waziristan close to the Afghan border, the officials said, but their nationalities were not known. 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, especially Afghanistan and Uzbekistan.
Two missiles hit the camp in Jangara, a village close to Makeen, the hometown of Mehsud, four officials told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to media. The missiles were believed fired by unmanned American planes.
One official said communication intercepts indicated that militants were now telling one another to move to safe places because there were more drones in the sky and there could be more attacks.
The officers said reports from agents in the field said between 12 and 14 militants were killed and several wounded.
Mehsud was not among the victims, the officers said. The United States is thought 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 kill civilians as well as militants and contribute to anti-U.S. sentiment in Pakistan.
Islamabad officially protests the strikes as violations of its sovereignty. Any admission it 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, especially since Mehsud is now a key target of the Pakistan army.
Tuesday’s attack was the fourth in two weeks against Mehsud and his followers in his stronghold of South Waziristan. One attack on the funeral of a slain militant killed up to 80 people.
Pakistan’s army is deploying troops in South Waziristan and launching regular air strikes of its own to try and kill or capture Mehsud, who is blamed for organizing many of the bloodiest suicide attacks in Pakistan over the last few years.