By Barry Newhouse
Islamabad, Pakistan (RUSHPRNEWS) 09/08/2008–Residents in Pakistan’s North Waziristan tribal area say a suspected U.S. missile strike hit a house and a seminary linked to a top Taliban commander, killing at least 10 people. VOA’s Barry Newhouse reports from Islamabad the strike comes as Asif Ali Zardari prepares to be sworn in as Pakistan’s president on Tuesday.
Witnesses said the apparent missile strike hit a home of longtime militant leader Jalaluddin Haqqani, who U.S. military officials say oversees one of the deadliest Taliban networks in Afghanistan. Locals said some foreigners were among the dead.
Since the end of August, there have been at least five reported missile strikes against targets in North and South Waziristan as well as a suspected U.S.-led raid on a Pakistani village near the Afghan border.
The reported operations indicate a sharp increase in U.S. and NATO attacks against suspected militants inside Pakistan, just as the country’s new government prepares to replace former President Pervez Musharraf.
Missile strikes have traditionally provoked an outpouring of public resentment that Musharraf’s political opponents used to help drive him from power.
But Pakistan’s former ambassador to Afghanistan, Rustam Shah Mohmand, says many of those opponents are now seated in the new government – giving it broader political support and fewer high-profile critics.
“I think the government really is not concerned much about the domestic fallout because there is no leader who would challenge its position or who would rally people around him and launch a country-wide protest. So the coalition forces, the Americans, are taking full advantage of the situation where there is a sort of vacuum as far as leadership is concerned,” he said.
The government has lodged protests with U.S officials over the strikes, but Mohmand says officials have also reconciled themselves that the missile operations will continue.
Meanwhile, Pakistan’s incoming president, Asif Ali Zardari, has reached out to Afghanistan’s leader following months of tension between the two countries over the Taliban insurgency.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai is expected to be among the invited guests at Mr. Zardari’s presidential swearing in ceremony in Islamabad on Tuesday.
SOURCE: VOICE OF AMERICA