A missile strike from a pilotless U.S. reconnaissance aircraft killed between six and 12 people in a group of houses in southern Afghanistan, very close to the border with Pakistan, Pakistani residents of the area said Friday.
The strike came after the United States launched a commando raid by Special Operations forces in South Waziristan in Pakistan on the border with Afghanistan on Wednesday, the first of what American military officials said could be more raids to attack Taliban insurgents in Pakistan's tribal region. After the raid on Wednesday, Pakistan lodged a “strong protest” with the American government and said it reserved the right of retaliation.
The spokesman for the Pakistani army, Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas, said that the missile strike Friday did not take place inside Pakistani territory. “There was no airstrike in Pakistan, or near Miran Shah or in North Waziristan,” Abbas said, referring to Miran Shah, the capital of North Waziristan, a tribal region in Pakistan that borders Afghanistan.
Residents in Miran Shah also said that the missile strike Friday morning hit a target inside Afghanistan, and not inside Pakistan.
They said the attack struck two residential compounds in the village of Al Must, less than a mile from the Pakistani border.
According to reports from Al Must reaching Miran Shah, six to 12 people, including men of Arab descent, were killed, said Ahsan Dawar, a journalist in Miran Shah. Among the dead were two women and three children, Dawar said.
He said three missiles hit the two compounds, which he said belong to two residents in Al Must, Hakeem Khan and Arsala Khan. It is common for families in these areas to rent part of their compound to foreigners, especially Arabs, who are involved in the planning of attacks against NATO forces in Afghanistan.
Dawar said that on Thursday, a pilotless American aircraft struck a large house in another village, Chaar Kehl, about 16 miles west of Miran Shah. In that attack at about 5 p.m. Thursday, seven Arab men were killed, he said.
Al Must is on the Afghan side of the border region called Gurwak, which is considered the demarcation line between Pakistan and Afghanistan, Dawar said.
Another local resident, Mahmood Khan, said that pilotless aircraft were seen over Al Must at 9 a.m. Friday morning.
The strikes Friday appeared to indicate that the United States was forging ahead with a tougher strategy to curb the escalating numbers of Taliban fighters crossing from Pakistan to attack American and NATO soldiers fighting in Afghanistan.