Pakistan: Al Qaeda Members Among Dozen Killed in Strike

Some low-level Al Qaeda members were among a dozen militant fighters killed by an artillery and helicopter attack on two compounds near the Afghan border, officials said Wednesday, raising the toll from the strike a day earlier from 10.

Fresh violence broke out Wednesday in Pakistan's southwestern Baluchistan province, where suspected tribesmen fired at a paramilitary patrol, triggering a gunfight in which one assailant was killed, police said.

On Tuesday, helicopter gunships and artillery pounded the two hide-outs in Daygan, a village about 10 miles west of Miran Shah, the main town in the North Waziristan region, military officials said.

Militants in the area fought to keep ground forces from approaching, but about 12 people were killed in the air attack, a local security official said on condition he not be identified because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

Chechens and Arabs were among the militants killed, he said, adding that there were no casualties among government forces.

Army spokesman Maj. Gen. Waheed Arshad confirmed the number of militant deaths as 12.

In Derak Saraab, a mountainous area in insurgency-struck Baluchistan, suspected tribesmen attacked paramilitaries traveling in a pickup truck, police officer Imran Mahmood said. One attacker was killed in the ensuing gunbattle, he said.

No one claimed responsibility for the attack, but Baluchistan has been the scene of attacks on security forces, government installations, gas fields and gas pipelines in recent years. Authorities blame the violence on ethnic-Baluch tribesmen who want the central government to increase royalty payments for resources in their areas.

The Daygan assault appeared to be the toughest military action since troops withdrawn from the tribal zone in September 2006 began to be redeployed there early last month, after a controversial peace deal with pro-Taliban militants to maintain local security collapsed.

Since then, attacks on government forces have surged and more than 360 people have been killed, including at least 102 who died in an army raid last month on Islamabad's radical Red Mosque. Militants have vowed to avenge those deaths.