msnbc.com news services
updated 8/28/2010 3:50:55 AM ET 2010-08-28T07:50:55

Suspected Islamist militants attacked an army intelligence office Saturday in northwestern Pakistan city of Peshawar, officials said, setting off a gun battle that paralyzed parts of the city.

The shooting began hours after suspected U.S. missiles struck two vehicles carrying militants in another part of northwest Pakistan and killed at least four of them, officials said.

In Peshawar, captured militant suspects were being questioned in the office at the time of the attack, two local police officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the information. It was not clear, though, if the attack was tied to the questioning.

Bashir Bilour, a senior minister in the province, said the shooting began when militants tried to enter the building, but security forces fended off the attack.

"They have been surrounded and so far there are no casualties," he told reporters.

The area around the office was sealed off soon after the attack, which began about 6 a.m. Sporadic gunfire could still be heard more than five hours later, shutting down blocks of the city.

Peshawar is the capital of troubled Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, where militants often target police and security forces.

U.S. Consulate not target
The area where the assault happened is near the American Consulate, but police said that building was not the target. TV footage showed commandos and police surrounding the consulate and checking vehicles.

The overnight missile attack happened in the troubled Kurram tribal region bordering Afghanistan.

The slain men were from Taliban's Haqqani network, which is blamed for launching attacks across the border against the American and NATO forces in Afghanistan, two intelligence officials said.

Although the CIA has repeatedly targeted militant positions in Pakistan's tribal regions, such strikes in Kurram are rare.

"There were attacks in three different places on Friday evening," a government official in the region, who declined to be identified, told Reuters.

Two of the missiles hit vehicles carrying suspected militants. It was not clear if the three attacks were carried out by one or more aircraft, they said.

The identity of the dead was not known while several suspected militants were wounded, the officials said. Some accounts placed the death toll at four; others, five.

U.S. ally Pakistan officially objects to the attacks by pilotless drone aircraft, saying they violate its sovereignty and enrage the Pashtun tribes in the lawless border regions, complicating its efforts to stamp out militancy.

But Pakistan has cooperated in planning at least some of the attacks, officials from both countries have said.

Several senior al-Qaida and Taliban leaders have been killed in the strikes, including the leader of Pakistani Taliban militants, Baitullah Mehsud, killed in August last year.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

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