Suspected US attacks by unmanned drones killed at least seven (some reports claim eight) suspected Taliban members in the tribal areas of northwest Pakistan on Monday morning, according to Pakistani officials.
It's the latest in a series of such air attacks. US officials, citing policy, have refused to comment on most of the strikes.
The attacks are believed to be carried out by "Predator" unmanned aerial vehicles, remotely controlled from CIA. headquarters in the US, targeting Al Qaeda terrorists and Taliban militants from Afghanistan who are hiding out across the border in tight-knit tribal communities.
Pakistan has condemned the attacks as a violation of its sovereignty, and warned that they are counterproductive.
The airstrike came after a US commander on Saturday said Washington will deploy up to 30,000 additional US troops to Afghanistan by the middle of next year, in a mirror of the "surge" strategy that proved effective in Iraq.
Incoming US President Barack Obama has promised to draw down troops in Iraq and increase deployments in Afghanistan, according to The Boston Globe.
Three missiles reportedly targeted vehicles mounted with anti-aircraft guns, according to the sources. One missile missed its intended target and landed near a house.
The dead were suspected Taliban militants, a local intelligence official said.
Another local official said nine other militants were wounded in the attack.
The missile strikes took place Monday morning about nine miles (15 km) from the town of Wana in South Waziristan.
Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported that the attacks started massive fires in two villages and sent residents fleeing in panic. Local residents later told AFP that hundreds of Taliban had gathered near the sites of the attacks for funeral prayers.
The suspected US strikes have continued despite a warning by Taliban militants based in tribal territory last month that any more would lead to reprisal attacks across Pakistan.
A missile attack late last month by a US jet killed Rashid Rauf, the alleged Al-Qaeda mastermind of a 2006 transatlantic airplane bombing plot, as well as an Egyptian Al-Qaeda operative, security officials have said.
The Voice of America (VOA) reported that media reports suggest the US has carried out some 30 air attacks in Pakistan this year. "The Pakistani government has publicly condemned the air strikes, saying they undermine Pakistan's counter-terrorism efforts," the VOA reported.
Pakistani police found the bodies strewn with bullets in an abandoned village in North Waziristan, Khan Zada, a local police official said.
A note signed by the Taliban was left with the bodies. It said that the brothers were from the Afghan city of Khost, near the Pakistan border, and had been abducted and killed.
The chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, said at a news conference in Kabul on Saturday that the US would potentially double its deployment to Afghanistan by mid-2009, according to AFP.
A total of 70,000 foreign troops are currently deployed in Afghanistan to fight the Taliban insurgency, AFP said, but violence is on the rise.
This year has been the bloodiest for international forces here since the Taliban fell, with nearly 290 soldiers killed. About 1,000 Afghan troops and police, as well as more than 2,000 civilians, have also been killed in 2008.
In a recent Christian Science Monitor dispatch from Kabul, experts warned that the US is increasingly facing a similar problem in Afghanistan as the Soviets did in the 1980s: attacks on vulnerable supply roads, lack of control of the countryside, and an enemy with hideouts across the border in Pakistan.
From the perspective of Zamir Kabulov, the former Soviet official, President-elect Barack Obama's proposed troops surge for Afghanistan is not enough....
The Soviets had nearly 400,000 Soviet and Afghan soldiers at their disposal – more than twice what the US and NATO have here – and yet they still failed, he notes.
The coalition's stretched resources have created an unwanted echo of the worst of Soviet times, Professor Goodson [of the US Army War College in Carlisle, Pa.] says.
Whether it is wheat being smuggled, water rights, or militants crossing unchecked, addressing the root causes of the problems always gets complicated by the absence of agreed upon borders....
How can we fence a border when the neighbor does not agree on where to draw the line? We have unofficial agreements with tribal elders regarding the role of our troops from the lawless zone between Afghanistan and Pakistan. This guarantees that the tribal, lawless zone will remain tribal and lawless.