ISLAMABAD, Pakistan – Pakistan urged President Barack Obama to halt U.S. missile strikes on Al Qaeda strongholds near the Afghan border, saying Saturday that civilians were killed the previous day in the first attacks since Obama's inauguration.
Pakistani security officials said eight suspected foreign militants, including an Egyptian Al Qaeda operative, were among 22 people killed in Friday's twin strikes in the Waziristan region.
But the Foreign Ministry said that the attacks by unmanned aircraft also killed an unspecified number of civilians and that it had informed U.S. officials of its "great concern."
"With the advent of the new U.S. administration, it is Pakistan's sincere hope that the United States will review its policy and adopt a more holistic and integrated approach toward dealing with the issue of terrorism and extremism," a ministry statement said.
"We maintain that these attacks are counterproductive and should be discontinued," it said.
Pakistani leaders complain that stepped-up missile strikes — there have been more than 30 since August — fan anti-American sentiment and undermine the government's own efforts to counter Islamist militants.
But their protests have had few practical consequences, fueling speculation that Islamabad's cash-strapped, pro-U.S. government has given tacit approval in return for political and financial support from Washington.
Obama has not commented on the missile strike policy.
However, he has made the war in Afghanistan and the intertwined Al Qaeda fight in Pakistan an immediate foreign policy priority. Few observers expect him to ditch a tactic that U.S. officials say has killed a string of militant leaders behind the insurgency in Afghanistan — and who were perhaps plotting terrorist attacks in the West.
Three intelligence officials told The Associated Press that funerals were held Saturday for nine Pakistanis killed Friday in Zharki, a village in the North Waziristan region.
The officials, citing reports from field agents and residents, said Taliban fighters had earlier removed the bodies of five suspected foreign militants who also died in the first missile strike Friday. Initial reports put the death toll from that attack at 10.
A senior security official in the capital, Islamabad, identified one of the slain men as a suspected Al Qaeda operative called Mustafa al-Misri. He said it was unclear if the man was a significant figure.
The second strike hit a house in the South Waziristan region. Residents and security officials say eight people died in the village of Gangi Khel.
Resident Allah Noor Wazir said he attended funerals for the owner of the targeted house, Din Faraz, his three sons and a guest.
"I also heard that three bodies had been taken away by Taliban. They say they belong to foreigners," Wazir told the AP by telephone.
The security officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.
The United States does not directly acknowledge firing the missiles, which are believed to be mostly fired from drones operated by the CIA and launched from neighboring Afghanistan.
Pakistan's government has little control over the border region, which is considered a likely hiding place for Al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden and other terrorist leaders.
While protesting the missile strikes, Pakistan's government on Saturday also welcomed Obama's decision to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility.
A Foreign Ministry statement Saturday said the move was a step toward "upholding the primacy of the rule of law" and would add a "much-needed moral dimension in dealing with terrorism."
Pakistan helped the United States round up hundreds of militants in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, including several Al Qaeda leaders still incarcerated at Guantanamo.