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Page last updated at 19:25 GMT, Saturday, 14 February 2009

'US strike' kills 27 in Pakistan

Tribal areas map

At least 27 militants have been killed in a suspected US missile attack in north-west Pakistan, officials say.

The missile strike hit a house in the South Waziristan area, near the Afghan border, which officials said was used as a hide-out for Taleban militants.

The US has carried out more than 20 air strikes from drones in north-western Pakistan in recent months.

President Asif Zardari has told US TV that the Taleban are now established across much of Pakistan.

"We're fighting for the survival of Pakistan. We're not fighting for the survival of anyone else," CBS says he told them in an interview to be screened on Sunday.

Islamabad has long argued that US air strikes complicate its own fight against insurgents, and violate its sovereignty.

Pakistani leaders had expressed hope that the new US administration of Barack Obama would halt the controversial manoeuvres.

But earlier this week Mr Obama said there was no doubt militants were operating in safe havens in Pakistan's tribal belt and that the US would make sure Pakistan was a strong ally in fighting that threat.

Wanted militant

The latest suspected drone attack took place on Saturday morning in a village near the town of Ladha.

US drone
US drones have carried out many attacks in north-west Pakistan

A house owned by a local clan member was struck by two missiles. Most of the dead were Uzbeks, officials say. Several people were wounded.

Witnesses in the area say the rockets were fired from a drone and say the house was frequented by militants from Pakistani Taleban leader Baitullah Mehsud's organisation.

The BBC's Shoaib Hasan, in Islamabad, says Mehsud is one of the most wanted men in the region.

Our correspondent says Mehsud is believed to be responsible for a number of atrocities, including the assassination of former Pakistan Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto - President Zardari's wife.

Kabul meeting

The attack took place during a visit to the region by US special envoy for Afghanistan Richard Holbrooke to assess strategic options for the future.

Later on Saturday he met Afghan president Hamid Karzai in Kabul.

No details were released, but ahead of the meeting President Karzai told al-Jazeera television that there was "crisis" between Washington and Kabul with tension over civilian casualties, arrests and raids.

Washington has complained of corruption, poor governance and opium-poppy growing.

Mr Karzai says he has not spoken to President Obama almost a month after his inauguration - a sign, correspondents say, that he does not enjoy the favoured status which former President George W Bush accorded him.



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