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Deaths in Pakistan drone attack
At least 20 people killed by US missile strike on suspected Taliban training centre in tribal area near Afghan border.
Last Modified: 16 Nov 2010 08:34 GMT

Nearly 100 suspected drone strikes have occurred in Pakistan this year, a major surge over previous years [AFP]

A US missile strike has destroyed a suspected Taliban training centre in Pakistan's tribal area near the Afghan border, killing at least 20 people.

The missiles, launched from drones, struck a fortress-like compound and a vehicle in Ghulam Khan village in North Waziristan early on Tuesday.

According to a Pakistani intelligence official in the region, the site was manned by Taliban fighters who had just returned from Afghanistan.

Al Jazeera's Kamal Hyder, reporting from the capital, Islamabad, said that one of the missiles destroyed a house in which 16 people were killed, including women and children.

"The other target was a vehicle in which four people are said to have been killed," he said.

"This is coming at a time when the US is escalating drone strikes inside Pakistani territory despite the fact that public opinion is not in favour of such attacks.

"The government on the other hand is keeping mum on such strikes because ... they are dependent on the US for much-needed military equipment and aid. However, recently the government has expressed its concern about the growing number of strikes, particularly when there're civilian casualties involved."

After Tuesday’s strike, alleged Taliban fighters surrounded the destroyed compound and were searching through the rubble while an excavator dug graves for the dead in a nearby cemetery, local intelligence officials said.

Taliban stronghold

North Waziristan is the main base of the Pakistani Taliban fighting Western forces across the border.

The US has stepped up missile strikes by unmanned drones there in recent months as it struggles to stabilise war-ravaged Afghanistan.

More than 220 people have been killed in over 40 strikes since September 3, angering the Pakistani government, which is facing criticism for acquiescing to the US missile attacks and reprisals from armed groups based in the area.

The US as a rule does not confirm drone attacks, but its military and the Central Intelligence Agency operating in Afghanistan are the only forces that deploy the pilotless aircraft in the region.

Washington officials say drone strikes are highly effective in the war against al-Qaeda and have killed a number of high-value targets, including Baitullah Mehsud, the Pakistani Taliban's founding father.

But the policy is deeply unpopular among the Pakistani public, who see military action on Pakistani soil as a breach of national sovereignty.

On Monday Richard Holbrooke, the US special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, said it was necessary for Pakistan and Afghanistan to find a "common strategic purpose" to win the war against the Taliban and al-Qaeda.

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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