Page last updated at 10:55 GMT, Thursday, 18 June 2009 11:55 UK

Air raid 'kills nine' in Pakistan

US drone
A pilotless US drone is thought to have carried out the attack

At least nine people have been killed in an airstrike on suspected militant targets in Pakistan's tribal region of South Waziristan, local officials say.

Pilotless US drone aircraft are thought to have carried out the attack in which missiles were fired at a house near the town of Wana on the Afghan border.

Local Taliban fighters are reported to be among the dead. The area is a Taliban and al-Qaeda stronghold.

Pakistan says its army is preparing a full-scale assault on the area.

A local administration official told the BBC he had seen the bodies of nine men who he said were militants at the scene of Thursday's attack in South Waziristan.

All the dead are said to be local Taleban fighters loyal to commander Maulvi Nazir.

Peshawar airport
Peshawar airport has been closed indefinitely

Officials say two missiles were fired at a house in the village of Shah Alam in the Birmal sub-district of Waziristan, 12km (eight miles) west of Wana.

The village is located in a highly mountainous part of Waziristan close to the Afghan border.

Locals say the missiles struck at 1100 local time and a minor local commander may be among the dead. There is no independent confirmation.

There are reports that unmanned US drone aircraft had been flying over the area for some time before the explosions were heard.

US drones have carried out dozens of missile strikes in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region since last summer.

However, the BBC's Mike Wooldridge in Islamabad says when there were similar reports of a drone strike last weekend the Pakistani authorities eventually said the initial accounts were mistaken.

Meanwhile Pakistan's Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has closed the international airport at the north-western city of Peshawar for an indefinite period.

Flights to and from the airport have been suspended since Wednesday following intelligence reports that a local militant group may launch attacks there, officials say.

The closure orders were announced on Tuesday night, in the wake of a security build-up on all roads leading to the airport.

Passengers reporting at the airport on Wednesday were transferred to Islamabad, the Pakistani capital, to catch their flights from there.


Militants use bases on the Pakistani side of the border to launch attacks inside Afghanistan. How many insurgents have been killed in drone operations is a matter of debate.

Baitullah Mehsud

Civilians have also been killed, and the attacks have angered Pakistanis.

Pakistan is also facing a growing Taliban insurgency within its own borders.

Its troops have been fighting militants in and around the Swat valley, north-west of Islamabad, since early May.

The army now says it is gearing up for an assault on top Pakistani Taliban commander Baitullah Mehsud, whose network of fighters are blamed for a wave of suicide bombings and other attacks in Pakistan.

Baitullah Mehsud is based in the eastern part of South Waziristan, while Maulvi Nazir is in the west, close to the Afghan border.


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