ISLAMABAD, Pakistan – Suspected U.S. missiles struck a religious school linked to the Taliban on Thursday, killing nine people in the lawless border region where Al Qaeda and its Taliban allies are believed to plot attacks on American and NATO forces in Afghanistan.
The strike came hours after Parliament warned against any incursions on Pakistani soil and condemned the wave of terrorism tearing at the country, while stressing the need for dialogue.
The suspected U.S. missiles hit the religious school on the outskirts of Miran Shah, the main town in the region of North Waziristan, four intelligence officials said. No students were believed to be at the school at the time.
Relying on informants and agents in the area, two officials said nine people were killed, including four pulled lifeless from the rubble hours after the strike, and two others were wounded.
The religious school belonged to a local cleric linked to the veteran Taliban commander Jalaluddin Haqqani, considered a top foe of the United States, they said.
The intelligence officials gave the information on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.
Militants in the northwest are blamed for rising attacks on U.S. and NATO forces in neighboring Afghanistan as well as surging homicide attacks within Pakistan.
But the cross-border missile attacks have angered many Pakistani lawmakers and the pro-U.S. government has protested them as violations of the country's sovereignty.
The parliamentary resolution broadly supported the government's current approach, but it was vague and had few details, apparently a result of political compromise after two weeks of closed-door debate.
It did not directly mention two of the most divisive issues surrounding the terror fight: army offensives in the northwest and calls for unconditional talks with the extremists.
The major opposition parties recognize the need for military action against the insurgents but also need to maintain support among ordinary Pakistanis who are deeply suspicious of the war.
The seven-month old government — which is desperate for lawmakers to support its military offensive — said the 14-point document was "historic moment for the country."
"This will definitely help to improve the situation and to rid the country of the menace of terrorism," Information Minister Sherry Rehman said.
The resolution calls for an "independent foreign policy," a sign of wariness of American influence. But it also states Pakistan will not let its soil be used for terrorist attacks elsewhere — an apparent nod to U.S. complaints about militants hiding in northwest Pakistan.
The resolution also alludes to the U.S. missile attacks, stating that Pakistan "stands united against any incursions and invasions of the homeland, and calls upon the government to deal with it effectively."
While saying dialogue "must now be the highest priority," it stipulates that talks should be pursued with those "elements" willing to follow the constitution and the "rule of law."
The Pakistani army is engaged in two major offensives in the northwest — one in the Swat Valley and one in the Bajur tribal area. The latter has killed more than 1,000 militants, officials say, including 25 in an ongoing operation begun on Wednesday. The U.S. has praised the crackdowns while warning that peace deals simply let militants regroup.