18 March 2011 /REUTERS/AP
A US drone missile strike on Thursday killed at least 38 suspected militants in a Pakistani tribal region known as a haven for Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters, Pakistani intelligence officials said.
There were conflicting accounts about the target of the attack and those killed in the Datta Khel region of North Waziristan. The death toll was one of the highest in a drone missile strike. The area is a stronghold of Hafiz Gul Bahadur, a Taliban commander who harbors and sends militants across the border to fight Western forces in Afghanistan. One official said the missiles targeted a house as elders loyal to Bahadur were trying to mediate between two warring militant groups inside. Another official said the drone attacked a vehicle in the area that was passing by a house where local tribesmen were holding a meeting, killing them. A tribesman in the area supported his account. “It wasn’t a militant gathering, but a meeting of tribal elders from Ismail Khan village to sort out some differences over a business deal,” tribesman Zia-ur-Rehman told Reuters. “One of Bahadur’s commanders, Sharabat Khan, was also present at the meeting as he is also a local elder, but they were discussing business.”