Fresh US missile strike kills 12 in tribal Pakistan

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Islamabad, Sep 12 (UNI) At least 12 people were today killed in a fresh US missile strike on a house in Pakistan's restive North Waziristan region hours after top civilian and military leadership vowed to defend the country's sovereignty and territorial integrity against such actions.

A missile fired from a US drone hit a house in a village in North Waziristan early morning, killing at least 12 people, local officials said.

This was the second strike in North Waziristan in the last four days by the US drone and a fourth one since early this month. On September 8, a missile strike in North Waziristan had killed at least 21 people, mostly women and children.

Officials said the September 8 strike was aimed to target a Taliban commander Jalaluddin Haqqani, but it could hit four mid-level Al-Qaeda operatives.

The latest missile attack came a day after Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gillani and army chief Ashfaq Pervaiz Kiyani pledged to defend the country's sovereignty and territorial integrity in wake of the increasing US air strikes.

Mr Gilani told reporters in Islamabad yesterday that the government would take all possible steps to safeguard the country's borders.

''The nation should not be upset by the statement of US Admiral Mike Mullen who threatened more strikes inside Pakistan,'' he said, adding the government was capable of protecting the country's borders.

Commenting on Mr Kayani's statement that the country's borders would be defended at all cost and no external force would be allowed to conduct operations inside Pakistan, the Prime Minister said the statement reflected the government policy.

"The government has the same views as expressed by the army chief on defending the country's sovereignty and integrity, he added.

Mr Kayani had said in a late night statement on Wednesday that no external force would be allowed to conduct operations inside Pakistan.

Rejecting the US claims that the rules of engagement gave it the right to enter Pakistan, he made it clear that engagement rules with the coalition forces are well defined and within that, the right to conduct operations against the militants inside own territory was solely the responsibility of the respective armed forces.

''There is no question of any agreement or understanding with the Coalition Forces whereby, they are allowed to conduct operations on our side of the border,'' he stressed.

Top army commanders meeting in garrison town of Rawalpindi have, meanwhile, endorsed the army chief's statement about defending the country's sovereignty.

The corps commanders fully endorsed Mr Kayani's policy statement that no foreign country was allowed to conduct military operations inside Pakistan, officials said.

UNI XC ATI HS1347

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