Suspected U.S. missile strikes killed at least 25 people in the Khyber region of northwestern Pakistan.
Pakistani officials say American missiles, fired by unmanned drone aircraft, struck three locations Friday in the Tirah valley.
The area is a base for a local militant group, Lashkar-e-Islami, which is allied with the Pakistani Taliban. The French news agency quotes Pakistani officials as saying at least one compound belonging to the group was hit. A day earlier, Pakistani officials said another U.S. missile strike in the area killed seven alleged militants.
Most previous suspected U.S. missile strikes have occurred in North Waziristan, an area near the Afghan border where al-Qaida and Taliban militants are believed to be residing and operating.
This week’s review of U.S. strategy in Afghanistan and Pakistan says greater cooperation is needed from Pakistan to deny a safe haven for terrorists in the border region.
In another development, the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency has withdrawn its station chief from Islamabad following threats against his life after his name was revealed in a Pakistani lawsuit.
The station chief’s identity was revealed this week in a legal complaint by a Pakistani lawyer on behalf of clients who are relatives of individuals who died in suspected U.S. drone attacks — operations which are run by the CIA, not the U.S. military. The lawsuit also names CIA Director Leon Panetta and U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates as part of the case.
U.S. officials do not comment on the drone strikes except to say they are an integral part of the war against al-Qaida terrorists who use Pakistan’s tribal regions as a strategic base. Media reports say the Islamabad station chief plays a key role in the drone strike program and serves as the top liaison to Pakistan’s spy agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence agency, the ISI.
George Little, a spokesman for the CIA who spoke to media outlets on Friday would not confirm details of the case, but did say that ” CIA station chiefs encounter major risks… and their security is a top priority for the CIA, especially when there is an imminent threat.”
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