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Taliban commander killed in US missile strike in Pakistan
October 27, 2008 14:16 IST
In stepped up attacks on Taliban [Images] and Al Qaeda [Images] bases in Pakistan's tribal areas, a suspected US drone fired missiles on a militant commander's house killing upto 20 people, including a prominent commander.
Haji Omar Khan, a lieutenant of Afghan Taliban commander Jalaluddin Haqqani, was killed when two missiles slammed into a suspected militant training camp near Ladha town in South Waziristan close to the Afghan border early on Monday morning, local TV channels reported.
The latest attack, the twelfth in the last one month, targetted the house which intelligence agencies said belonged to a close aide of one of the Taliban commanders.
According to reports militants cordoned off the scene of the strike and the identity of the 20 bodies in the rubble was not known.
The attack came even as Prime Minster Yousuf Raza Gilani [Images] said that US drone strikes in Pakistan's tribal belt were weakening the country's efforts to combat terrorism.
Last week, the Senate or upper house of parliament had ondemned the missile strikes, saying they were unacceptable.
Members of the Senate also pointed out that the strikes had continued despite assurances from the US that no such attacks would take place.
"Certainly (US attacks) are proving counter-productive to (the government's) efforts of isolating extremists and
militants from the tribal population, which was going through the formation of tribal lashkars (militias)," Gilani said.
Gilani described the missiles strikes as attacks on Pakistan's sovereignty and said they would not be tolerated.
The government would take all possible steps to stop the attacks, he said.
The surge in missile attacks comes amidst reports of local tribesmen forming lashkars to confront the Taliban and Al Qaeda militants. These lashkars have been taken on heavily armed Taliban militants and there have been reports of deaths on either sides in such clashes.
The mustering of lashkars against the Taliban militants is being undertaken at the behest of the government and in this backdrop Gilani said the authorities were capable of taking on the militants head on but it should be kept in mind that the "use of force is no answer to what is an essentially a political matter".
Gilani also made a veiled reference to the presence of foreign fighters in the troubled Bajaur tribal region, where security forces have killed some 1,500 Taliban fighters since mid-August.
"When thousands of people cross over from the border to attack our army, all accords are automatically broken. The military is operating in tribal and some settled areas of the North West Frontier Province to help the government bring law and order under control," he said in strong defence of ongoing military operations.
"It (the military) will be replaced with civil armed forces as soon as objectives are achieved," he said.
Gilani said the parliament's recent unanimous resolution on forging a new approach to tackling militancy was made possible due to a bipartisan effort by lawmakers. The resolution had laid down guidelines to tackle terrorism and militancy.
"In any case, the use of force should be the last option. Now that the action is going on, we need to strengthen our civil armed forces to replace the army as we have been assured by friendly countries (about equipping) them with modern facilities," he said.