ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - A U.S. missile strike in a Pakistani tribal region known as a haven for Taliban and al Qaeda fighters killed at least nine people Friday, Pakistani intelligence officials said.
A television report put the toll as high as 21.
Intelligence officials said a pilotless drone aircraft launched the attack at around 9:30 p.m. (11:30 a.m. EDT) in the village of Mohammad Khel, 30 km (20 miles) west of Miranshah, the main town in North Waziristan.
“One missile hit the house of Daud Jan,” said one of the officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject.
Pakistani military spokesman Major-General Athar Abbas said he had no information.
One intelligence official said nine people were killed, including foreigners. Taliban sources in the area later told Reuters eight were killed and seven wounded.
Dawn News reported 21 were killed, including 16 foreigners.
Frustrated by an intensifying Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan, U.S. forces have in the past month carried out eight missile strikes by pilotless drones and a commando raid on the Pakistani side of the border.
The U.S. strikes into Pakistan, in particular a September 3 raid by ground troops, have angered Pakistan, straining ties between the allies and leading to tension along the border which Pakistani forces have vowed to defend.
Earlier Friday, Pakistani intelligence officials reported another U.S. airstrike on the North Waziristan village of Datta Khel, closer to the Afghan border.
Abbas contradicted that account, saying the airstrike was carried out by the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force on a target across the border in Afghanistan.
“ISAF informed us at around 4:00 p.m. (6:00 a.m. EDT) that they were conducting an operation in Afghanistan, across from North Waziristan,” Abbas said. “There was no violation, no incursion or intrusion on our side.”
Intelligence officials in the region had told Reuters a U.S. warplane bombed two houses in Datta Khel, a village 60 km (40 miles) west of Miranshah.
“A jet fighter bombed two houses in different parts of Datta Khel. Two women and one child were killed,” said one of the officials.
He said five men were also wounded in the attack that took place at around 5.30 a.m. (7:30 a.m. EDT). Drone aircraft were seen circling the village after the attack, officials said.
Wednesday, a U.S. pilotless drone fired two missiles at a house in northwest Pakistan, killing five people.
The government says the strikes are an infringement of Pakistani sovereignty, and undermine long term efforts to bring militancy in the region under control.
U.S. commanders have spoken of respect for Pakistan’s sovereignty but have suggested they will not stop cross-border strikes on militants.
The Pakistan army meantime is fighting fierce battles against militants in Bajaur, at the north east extreme of the tribal belt, and Swat, an alpine valley in a more settled region close to the tribal lands.
Reporting by Haji Mujtaba, Alamgir Bitani and Zeeshan Haider; writing by Simon Cameron-Moore; editing by Philippa Fletcher