Islamabad A suspected U.S. missile struck a car in a lawless northwest Pakistani tribal region Wednesday, intelligence officials said, killing two insurgents and a civilian a day after the country told visiting U.S. officials it opposes such attacks.
The strike was a less-than-subtle hint that the Obama administration won’t give up a Bush-era tactic that Washington says has killed a string of al-Qaida operatives along Pakistan’s border with Afghanistan, even if it strains already-shaky relations with Islamabad.
Elsewhere in Pakistan’s northwest, residents tried to force out a group of Taliban fighters who ventured into their community from a militant stronghold in the neighboring Swat Valley, triggering a clash that left at least five combatants dead. Signaling the militancy’s reach, police in the south said they detained five members of an al-Qaida-linked group who planned suicide attacks in the mega-city of Karachi.
The missile strike occurred near Wana, the main town in South Waziristan tribal region, two intelligence officials said. South Waziristan is the main base of Pakistani Taliban chief Baitullah Mehsud, but there was no indication he was the target.
A drone had been flying over the area, and the missile landed after people in the car fired at the aircraft, the officials said, citing informants and agents. The attack also damaged shops in the village of Shin Warsak, wounding at least five villagers and killing one, they said.
The slain militants were from Pakistan’s eastern Punjab province, one official said. Both said Taliban fighters took away the militants’ bodies. The two officials spoke on condition of anonymity.
U.S. officials rarely discuss the missile campaign, which has escalated since August. Several dozen such missile attacks have been carried out in the northwest.
Pakistan has protested the strikes as a violation of its sovereignty and raising sympathy for the Taliban, scotching rumors that the two countries have a secret deal allowing the strikes.