ISLAMABAD, Pakistan – Pakistan condemned a suspected U.S. missile strike that killed 13 people near the Afghan border and indicated that American's new general for the region is pressing on with attacks on Taliban and Al Qaeda targets in Pakistani territory.
A surge in U.S. cross-border attacks since August has angered Pakistani officials who say the raids are violating the nuclear-armed country's sovereignty and undermining its own anti-terror war in the border region.
"The U.S. administration's reluctance to consider the repercussions of such operations is damaging the whole purpose of global efforts to combat terrorism," Pakistani Information Minister Sherry Rehman said.
Rehman said in a statement late Friday that Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari was urging Washington to halt the attacks. It was unclear if Zardari raised the matter in an overnight telephone call with U.S. President-elect Barack Obama.
Repairing strained ties while keeping pressure on militants hiding in the lawless frontier area will be a key challenge for Obama when he takes office in January.
Friday's attack by an unmanned plane took place in Kam Sam village in the North Waziristan region, a stronghold of militants blamed for killing U.S. troops in Afghanistan and homicide blasts within Pakistan.
A Pakistani intelligence official said an agent who visited the village reported that 13 suspected militants had died. The official said the targeted house belonged to a local Taliban commander and that authorities were still trying to determine who exactly was killed.
A government representative in the region also put the toll at 13. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.
It was the first suspected American attack since the installation of Gen. David Petraeus as head of the U.S. Central Command on Oct. 31, giving him overall command of the wars in both Iraq and Afghanistan. He visited Pakistan and Afghanistan this past week.
In an interview with The Associated Press close to the Afghan capital on Thursday, Petraeus said the border strikes had killed three "extremist leaders" in recent months and weeks. He did not identify the men.
The rugged, mountainous region where the government has never had much control is considered a likely hiding place for Usama bin Laden and his No. 2 Ayman al-Zawahri.
At least 18 missile strikes have hit Pakistan since August, more than three times as many as in 2007, apparently reflecting U.S. frustration at insufficient action by Islamabad against extremists along the border.
Pakistan leaders said they told Petraeus to call an immediate halt to the strikes, which they said were angering locals, making it more difficult to get their cooperation in ongoing military offensives there.
Petraeus said he would "take on board" what they said, but Pakistani officials said he gave them no promise the attacks would stop.
Pakistan's recently elected leaders have little leverage with the United States to force it to stop the strikes because they desperately need Washington's help to get the country out of a crushing economic crisis.