US launches another missile strike in Pakistan

Author: Associated Press

Two officials put the death toll at 14.

The latest missile attack came as the Taliban continued to deny their leader,
Baitullah Mehsud, was killed in last week’s strike, and amid conflicting
reports of a power struggle among those trying to decide who should succeed
him. Intelligence officials say meetings are being held in the South
Waziristan tribal region to try to name an heir.

Also today, at least a dozen rockets slammed into Peshawar, Pakistan’s main
northwest city, killing two civilians, while militants launched an assault
on a paramilitary base nearby, authorities said.

Today’s missile strike hit a compound in the Kani Guram area of South
Waziristan, a known Mehsud stronghold. Two intelligence officials in the
Pakistani capital said Mehsud commanders had regularly visited the site.

They said they did not know if the militants gathered at the site were
involved in trying to decide who would succeed Mehsud.

Two other intelligence officials based in the northwest said the strike killed
14 militants. It destroyed the facility, they said.

All of the intelligence officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they
were not authorized to speak to the media on the record.

The Taliban have vowed retaliation against the government for what it says are
false reports that Mehsud died. Pakistani and US officials have said Mehsud
is almost certainly dead and that there may be a power struggle over for
succession.

The rocket attacks on a residential area of Peshawar sent panicked residents
running from their homes shortly after 1 a.m., police official Nisar Khan
said. At least two civilians were killed and 10 others wounded.

Taliban militants often target security outposts in the countryside with heavy
weapons, but rocket attacks are rare in Pakistan’s cities. “It is an act of
terrorism, but we don’t know who the attackers were,” Khan told The
Associated Press.

Hours later, a group of militants attacked a paramilitary Frontier Corps base
in Basai, outside Peshawar, the military said in a statement. It said three
militants were killed in the gunbattle, but gave no casualty figures for the
paramilitary.

No one claimed immediate responsibility for the assaults, Khan said, but
Peshawar is close to the Taliban-infested tribal areas.

A top Pakistani official said supporters of Mehsud were fighting with each
other after his death.

“The current position is that their men are scattered, and they are fighting
with each other,” Interior Minister Rehman Malik told reporters in comments
broadcast by a local news channel today.

However, one contender for the leadership, Hakimullah, phoned The Associated
Press yesterday and railed against Pakistani government claims that he
himself had been killed in succession infighting. He also insisted Mehsud
was alive and his supporters unified.

Analysts have suggested that it could be in the interests of top commanders
within Mehsud’s alliance, Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, to deny their leader
was dead until they could agree on who would replace him.

Mehsud’s death would be a major blow for the Pakistani Taliban. He brought
various Islamist militant factions under a unified if loose command that
posed an unprecedented threat to the Pakistani security forces.

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