MIRANSHAH, Pakistan (Reuters) – Missiles fired by U.S. drones killed 13 people, including 7 foreign militants, on Monday in a Pakistani village where a religious school founded by an old friend of Osama bin Laden is located, intelligence officials and witnesses said.
“There were two drones and they fired three missiles,” said a resident of Dandi Darpakheil, a village in the North Waziristan tribal region near the Afghan border.
A military official said a house and madrasa founded by Taliban commander Jalaluddin Haqqani were the targets.
Haqqani is a veteran commander of the U.S.-backed Afghan war against Soviet invasion in the 1970s and 1980s, and his links with bin Laden go back to the late 80s.
An intelligence official said six civilians and seven foreign militants had been killed in the attack but the nationality of the foreigners could not immediately be established.
“Both Uzbeks as well as Arabs were living in the house and adjacent guest house. Six people were killed but we don’t know their identity,” the official said on condition of anonymity.
Fifteen to 20 wounded people, most of them women and children, had been taken to main hospital of Miranshah, the main town of North Waziristan, doctors said.
One of Haqqani’s younger sons said his father and another son, Sirajuddin, were nowhere near when the attack took place.
While the senior Haqqani is believed to be in poor health and less active, Sirajuddin has been leading the Taliban faction.
“Haqqani and Sirajuddin were in Afghanistan at the time of the attack. They are alive,” Badruddin, the commander’s third son, told Reuters by telephone.
Badruddin said one of his aunts had been killed in the attack on the family home. He said six missiles had struck the house, which the family had owned for 30 years.
Residents said militants cordoned off the blitzed site.
Military spokesman Major-General Athar Abbas said an “incident” had taken place and its cause was being ascertained.
CLOSE LINKS WITH ISI
Haqqani has had close links with Pakistani intelligence agencies, notably the military Inter-Services Intelligence
The New York Times reported in July that the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency had given Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani evidence of the ISI’s involvement with Haqqani along with evidence of ISI connections to a suicide bombing at the Indian embassy in Kabul that killed nearly 60 people on July 7.
Pakistan’s new president, Asif Ali Zardari, was due to be sworn in on Tuesday, after sweeping a vote on Saturday by legislators in parliament’s two chambers and four provincial assemblies.
Zardari, who forced former army chief Pervez Musharraf to step down last month after nine years in power, has vowed to defeat the Taliban and support the West’s mission in Afghanistan.
But the civilian government has to pay more heed to public opinion than Musharraf did in a country rife with anti-American sentiment.
U.S.-led forces recently stepped up cross-border attacks against al Qaeda and Taliban targets in Pakistani tribal areas.
Commandos carried out a helicopter-borne ground assault in South Waziristan on Wednesday, the first known incursion into Pakistan by U.S. troops since the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan.
Pakistani officials said 20 people, including women and children, had been killed in the U.S. attack which drew a furious response from the government.
A day later, four Islamist militants were killed and five wounded in a missile attack in North Waziristan, believed to have been launched by a U.S. drone aircraft.
Intelligence officials and witnesses said five people had been killed in another suspected drone attack on Friday but the Pakistan military denied it.
Anger over the U.S. commando raid and repeated territorial violations prompted the government to partially block supply lines to Western forces in landlocked Afghanistan on Saturday.
Rehman Malik, the top Interior Ministry official, said on Monday the road was unblocked after a few hours, and that it had only been shut for security reasons, contrary to earlier comments by the defense minister that it was a response to the violations.
Separately, the army killed 10 militants in clashes in the northwestern Swat Valley on Sunday night, while police arrested a teenaged suicide bomber who had planned to attack army installations in the northwestern garrison town of Nowshera.
Thirty people were killed in a suicide car bomb attack in the nearby city of Peshawar on Saturday.