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Suspected U.S. strike kills 12 in Pakistan

Pakistan's opposition called Friday on parliament to meet to devise a strategy to deal with cross-border attacks after the latest suspected U.S. strike killed 12 people in Pakistan's northwest.
/ Source: The Associated Press

The main opposition party Friday called on parliament to meet in a joint session to devise a strategy to deal with cross-border attacks after the latest suspected U.S. missile strike killed 12 people in Pakistan's northwest.

American forces in Afghanistan are stepping up efforts to hit Taliban and al-Qaida militants in what they call safe havens in Pakistan's border regions, despite stiff protests from Islamabad.

With the insurgency in Afghanistan intensifying, President Bush secretly approved more aggressive cross-border operations in July, current and former American officials have told the AP.

Chaudhry Nisar Ali, a senior leader of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's opposition party, demanded the government convene a joint session of parliament to discuss and devise a strategy on what he called an increasing and alarming number of the U.S. strikes inside Pakistan.

"This is very serious and very concerning to us," he said.

Identities of casualties not clear
Two intelligence officials told The Associated Press that missiles struck a home near Miran Shah, the main town in the North Waziristan tribal region, before dawn Friday.

The officials, speaking to The AP on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to speak to media, said 12 people were killed and 10 injured. The identities of the casualties were not immediately clear.

North Waziristan is part of a belt of tribally governed territory where Pakistan's government has little control. The frontier region is considered the most likely hiding place for Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida No. 2 Ayman al-Zawahri.

Since Aug. 20, there have been at least seven reported missile strikes as well as a raid by helicopter-borne U.S. commandos that Pakistani officials claim killed 15 people, all civilians.

Both the U.S. military and the CIA operate drone aircraft armed with missiles of the type believed to have killed two senior al-Qaida commanders in Pakistani territory earlier this year.

Pakistani officials warn that the strikes — especially ones involving ground troops — will fan anti-American sentiment in the country and wreck efforts to win over moderate tribal leaders and bring economic development to the impoverished border region.

Peace deal with tribes
Authorities negotiated a peace deal with tribes in North Waziristan earlier this year. Similar efforts have failed or broken down in other parts of the northwest.

On Friday, army spokesman Maj. Murad Khan said 32 militants and 2 soldiers died in the previous 24 hours in the Bajur region. Iqbal Khattak, a local government official, put the total for the 24-hour period higher, saying about 60 militants have died.

Officials say hundreds of militants have died there in a weekslong offensive into Bajur. An estimated 500,000 people have fled their homes. Officials acknowledge that civilians have been killed and villages badly damaged in the fighting.