Islamabad Dozens of followers of Pakistan’s top Taliban commander were in a compound when a suspected U.S. missile attack hit Saturday, killing 27 militants in an al-Qaida stronghold near the Afghan border, officials said.
The strike appeared to be the deadliest yet by the American drone aircraft that prowl the frontier, and defied Pakistani warnings that the tactic is fueling extremism in the nuclear-armed Islamic nation.
In an interview unrelated to the attack, President Asif Ali Zardari said the Taliban had expanded their presence to a “huge amount” of Pakistan and were even eyeing a takeover of the state.
“We’re fighting for the survival of Pakistan. We’re not fighting for the survival of anybody else,” Zardari said, according to a transcript of his remarks that CBS television said it would air Sunday.
Many Pakistanis believe the country is fighting Islamist militants, who have enjoyed state support in the past, only at Washington’s behest.
Remotely piloted U.S. aircraft are believed to have launched more than 30 attacks over the past year, and American officials say al-Qaida’s leadership and ability to support the insurgency in Afghanistan has been significantly weakened. But Pakistani officials say the vast majority of the victims are civilians.