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U.S. military: Airstrike kills 4 Taliban militants

U.S. airstrikes on a cave complex near Afghanistan’s border with Pakistan on Monday killed four Taliban militants, the U.S. military said.
/ Source: The Associated Press

U.S. airstrikes on a cave complex near Afghanistan’s border with Pakistan on Monday killed four Taliban militants and destroyed a truck loaded with rockets, the U.S. military said.

Military officials in Pakistan said that helicopters fired missiles into Pakistani territory, and officials opened an investigation into whether U.S. aircraft were involved.

But Lt. Col. Paul Fitzpatrick, a U.S. military spokesman, said the strike was one or two miles inside the Afghan border and that no missiles landed inside Pakistan.

A U.S. military statement said that coalition forces were in direct communication with Pakistani forces on the other side of the border during Monday’s operation.

Past U.S. strikes into Pakistan’s territory have strained relations between the two countries.

A senior Pakistani military official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media, said two missiles landed close to the Pakistani town of Angoor Ada in the South Waziristan tribal region that borders Afghanistan.

Angoor Ada is about 300 yards from the Afghan border.

The official said three civilians were wounded and that eight people were unaccounted for.

Pakistan may lodge protest
Pakistan is investigating whether U.S. forces were involved and will lodge a protest if a fact-finding team sent to the area uncovers information indicating American involvement, the official said.

Fitzpatrick, however, said no U.S. missiles landed in Pakistan.

“It was close to the border. ... We know where the borders are of the two counties,” he said, adding that the military has global positioning systems.

Before the strike, a joint team of U.S. ground forces and Afghan soldiers observed individuals loading a truck near the cave with rockets, a military statement said.

A patrol sent to investigate after the strike was fired on by a militant, who was captured, the U.S. military said.

More militants could be buried under the rubble in addition to the four known to have been killed, the military said.

Previous attacks caused problems
The American military has previously fired munitions into Pakistani territory, straining relations between it and its partner in the war on terrorism.

A failed Jan. 13 U.S. missile attack aiming to take out al-Qaida No. 2 Ayman al-Zawahri in the remote northwestern Pakistani town of Bajur killed the fugitive’s relative and about 15 others, including a dozen residents. Pakistan has maintained it wasn’t given advance word of the airstrike, which the Americans have yet to confirm.

Many Pakistanis viewed the attack as a violation of the nation’s sovereignty. Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry lodged a protest with the U.S. and demanded no such attacks be launched again.

The Pakistan-Afghan border, which runs through rugged mountains and deserts, is unmarked in places, and gunfire and bombs fired by U.S. soldiers and fighter jets in Afghanistan have landed in Pakistani territory in the past.