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Missile strike reported in northwest Pakistan

Missile strike reported in northwest Pakistan

Missiles destroyed a suspected militant hide-out near the Afghan border Wednesday where foreign insurgents were known to frequent, killing at least five people, Pakistani officials said.
The reported strike _ which raised suspicion the U.S. was again targeting militants in Pakistan _ came days after Pervez Musharraf's resignation from the presidency triggered a power struggle within the young government.
Leaders of the ruling coalition are divided over who should succeed the former military ruler and on the restoration of dozens of judges he fired last year in a desperate attempt to cling to power.
Four intelligence officials told The Associated Press that the missiles destroyed a compound near Wana, the main town in the South Waziristan tribal region. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.
Initial reports from the area indicated between five and 10 people were killed and several others wounded, but there were no details about the identity of the victims, the officials said.
Pakistan's tribal regions such as South Waziristan are believed to provide sanctuary to pro-Taliban insurgents fighting in Afghanistan as well as members of al-Qaida _ with both Osama bin Laden and the militant group's No. 2, Ayman al-Zawahri, believed to be hiding in the rugged and lawless terrain.
The Pakistan army spokesman, Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas, confirmed that there was an explosion near Wana and that several people were believed killed, but could not give any details until the army investigated. Militants have cordoned off the area, making that task difficult, he said.
Though there was no claim of responsibility for the apparent attack, U.S. forces operate drone aircraft armed with missiles along the border and in the past have been known to target militant hideouts, straining ties between Washington and Islamabad.
Waliur Rehman, a shopkeeper in Wana, said he heard the familiar sound of a drone at about 7:30 p.m. followed by two explosions.
"The planes are still in the air. People are scared and are staying indoors," Rehman told the AP by telephone.
The U.S. Embassy in Islamabad said it had no information on the incident.
Musharraf, a former American ally in the war on terror, reluctantly ended his nine-year presidency Monday in the face of efforts by the governing coalition to have him impeached.
The two main parties _ united primarily in their hatred of Musharraf _ have many challenges ahead, from battling extremist violence to reigning in inflation.
Also on the agenda Wednesday was the presidency, which is expected to be a largely ceremonial role next time around. The new leader will be elected by lawmakers, a process that is supposed to be completed within the next 25 days.
The Pakistan People's Party, the main bloc in the ruling coalition, insisted Wednesday that it had the right to choose the new president.
"We think we have the right to decide on the presidency," Raja Pervez Ashraf, a senior party leader told reporters.
It has yet to name a candidate, but party members were talking up a possible candidacy for their leader, Asif Ali Zardari, the husband and political successor of slain prime minister Benazir Bhutto.
However, the leader of the coalition's second biggest party, Nawaz Sharif, has told Zardari _ who comes from the well-off southern province of Sindh _ that the next president should be from the impoverished western province of Baluchistan.
Attaullah Mengal, a tribal chief and veteran Baluch nationalist, has been touted for the post in Pakistani media.
The coalition has also been wrangling over the fate of Supreme Court judges ousted when Musharraf imposed emergency rule in November.
Sharif, whose government was ousted when Musharraf seized power in a military coup in 1999, has championed their cause and wants them returned immediately.
The judges could prove useful allies if Sharif tried to make good on a threat to have Musharraf tried for treason _ a charge punishable by death.
However, Zardari has consistently linked their restoration to constitutional amendments that could limit the judges' powers and ultimately protect the former general.
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Associated Press writers Riaz Khan, Zarar Khan and Stephen Graham in Islamabad, Pakistan contributed to this report.


Updated : 2021-05-06 23:46 GMT+08:00