A suspected missile strike late Wednesday in a Pakistan border village destroyed a house and killed about a dozen people, residents and a militant spokesman said.
At least two explosions hit Damadola village, in the Bajur tribal region near Afghanistan, late Wednesday said residents, who reported seeing drones flying in the area beforehand.
Pakistan says it does not allow U.S. forces to operate on its territory. However, villagers have reported seeing unmanned American Predator aircraft firing missiles at suspected militant targets on several occasions in recent years.
A U.S. official has confirmed on condition of anonymity that a missile from a U.S. Predator drone struck an alleged terrorist safehouse in Pakistan in January, killing al-Qaida commander Abu Laith al-Libi, who was believed to be responsible for the bombing during a visit last year by Vice President Dick Cheney to Afghanistan.
Gathered for a feast
Villager Ibrahim Khan said at least 15 people were killed in Wednesday's attack. He said local Taliban leaders had gathered for a feast at the targeted house. He reported secondary explosions, suggesting weapons had been stored inside the house.
Taliban spokesman Maulvi Umar said the targeted house belonged to a Damadola resident called Ubaidullah and that militants had cordoned off the area. He said more than 10 people had died, including women and children. His account could not be independently verified.
Pakistan army spokesman Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas could not confirm reports of a missile strike.
"I don't have any confirmation of what media is reporting," he said.
An Associated Press reporter in Khar, about 6 miles from Damadola, heard explosions at around 8 p.m.
Aimed at peace talks?
Damadola residents said militants were preventing people from getting close to the destroyed house.
But two witnesses, Muhammad Khalid Khan and Fazal Khan, told the AP that they saw bodies brought out from the rubble of a fort-like compound. Local Taliban were still searching for bodies, they said.
Umar, the Taliban spokesman, claimed the attack was a deliberate attempt to harm Taliban peace talks with the new Pakistani government — which has pursued negotiations with Islamic militants to quell bloody violence in its northwestern regions bordering Afghanistan.
"We will avenge this but will continue talks with the government," he said.