ISLAMABAD, (AP) – U.S. missiles hit a suspected militant hide-out, killing 16 insurgents in a troubled Pakistani tribal region along the Afghan border before dawn Saturday, intelligence officials said.
The strike came as the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman, Adm. Mike Mullen, was in Pakistan. Mullen was expected to see Pakistan’s army chief, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, who was recently granted a three-year term extension in what some have welcomed as a sign of continuity in Pakistan’s battle against Islamist extremists.
The six missiles struck a compound in the Nazai Narai area of South Waziristan. The hide-out was known to be frequented by foreign fighters who were among the dead, two intelligence officials said.
The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to go on the record, said agents were trying to get more details about the identities and nationalities of the dead.
Army spokesmen were not immediately available for comment.
U.S. missile strikes regularly pound extremist targets in the northwest. South Waziristan has witnessed several major Pakistani military operations since the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States.
Washington has relied heavily on its covert missile campaign to take out al-Qaida, Afghan Taliban and their local supporters in North and South Waziristan tribal regions, which are hiding places for insurgents.
The vast majority of strikes have hit targets in North Waziristan — home to several militant networks that attack U.S. forces in Afghanistan. Although Pakistan publicly condemns the missile strikes, it has secretly helped Washington in previous attacks.