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Investigation urged after Pakistan missile strike kills 30

PAKISTAN: Human Rights Watch called on Pakistan Wednesday to allow an independent investigation into a suspected missile strike that killed around 30 alleged Al-Qaeda militants.

A massive blast on Tuesday destroyed a madrassa in the volatile North Waziristan tribal area bordering Afghanistan, which officials said was being used as a militant training camp and bomb factory.

A senior intelligence official and residents said up to three missiles fired from Afghanistan where US-led troops are active hit the building, although the Pakistani army said the blast was caused by explosives at the site.

Some residents said local children may have been among the dead.

“The Pakistani government should immediately allow independent investigators and journalists access to the Datta Khel area of North Waziristan to ascertain exactly who and how many have died, at whose hands and under what circumstances,” HRW South Asia researcher Ali Dayan Hasan said in a statement.

Hasan said the conflicting accounts given of what happened “have only added to suspicions that the Pakistani government has something to hide”, which in turn would jeopardise the fight against extremism.

“Once again, there are allegations of a US strike and of children dying in that strike. Again Pakistan is denying US involvement or Pakistani responsibility for the attack,” Hasan said.

Pakistan army spokesman Major General Waheed Arshad said neither Pakistani or US forces had any connection with the incident and that it was caused by the explosion of bombs stored at the house.

“Around 30 people were killed in the blast. Ten to 15 are foreign nationals. They had assembled there and were in the compound, using it as a training compound,” Arshad told AFP.

He said there were Arab and Turkmen militants among the dead but there was “no report that any high-value target was in there,” he said.

The US-led coalition in Afghanistan also denied any involvement in the blast.

Intelligence officials said on condition of anonymity that the dead men were militants from Osama bin Laden’s Al-Qaeda movement, blamed for the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States.

Hundreds of foreign Al-Qaeda militants fled into Pakistan’s tribal belt after US-led forces ousted the Taliban regime from power in Afghanistan for harbouring Bin Laden and his allies.

The issue of possible US missile strikes is sensitive because Pakistan refuses to allow foreign troops to conduct military operations on its soil.

Miranshah, Wednesday, AFP

 

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