MIR ALI, Pakistan – A suspected U.S. missile strike killed at least eight militants Friday in northwestern Pakistan, officials said, the second attack this week in an area believed to hold many insurgents who fled from an army offensive elsewhere in the Afghan border region.
Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani told visiting CIA director Leon Panetta that any new U.S. strategy for Afghanistan must take into account Pakistan's concerns, especially fears that more troops could push militants across the border into Pakistan, according to a statement by Gilani.
The CIA is believed to be behind the more than 40 missile strikes to have hit suspected Al Qaeda and Taliban targets over the last year close to the border region. American officials do not generally acknowledge the attacks, which are unpopular among many here.
A U.S. drone fired two missiles at a compound being used by suspected Taliban militants in a village near Mir Ali in North Waziristan, according to two intelligence officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to release the information.
The compound was destroyed and eight bodies were pulled from the rubble, the officials said, adding that two other suspected militants were wounded.
The targeted compound in the village of Shakhwadi was owned by two brothers, and Taliban militants were frequently seen visiting the building, which was cordoned off after the missile strike, the officials said.
Ahmed Nawaz Dawar, a local tribesman, said Taliban militants buried those killed and took the wounded to a hospital.
Another suspected U.S. missile strike killed three militants and wounded four just after midnight Thursday in Shana Khuwara village in North Waziristan, officials said.
Anti-American sentiment is pervasive throughout Pakistan. The Pakistani government publicly condemns the U.S. strikes as violations of its sovereignty, but many analysts believe the two countries have a secret deal allowing them.
The U.S. Embassy declined to comment on the CIA director's visit to the country. American security and government leaders have frequently visited Pakistan in recent weeks to discuss its role in stabilizing Afghanistan as President Barack Obama prepares to announce his decision on strategy and troop levels in the country.
Pakistan's army launched its offensive against the Pakistani Taliban in South Waziristan in mid-October and has retaken many towns in the region. The United States has welcomed the effort, but wants the Pakistanis to do more against the insurgents in the border area blamed for violence in Afghanistan.
Militants, meanwhile, are believed to have fled north to escape the fighting.
Underscoring their resilience, officials said five Pakistani troops and six militants were killed in a gunbattle late Thursday at a security outpost in the Bajur tribal region — the site of a military campaign against Taliban militants that ended with a declaration of victory in March.
The fighting broke out after militants ambushed the outpost near the village of Chinar with rockets and gunfire, according to local administrator Ghulam Sadullah Khan.
The Pakistani military said it was looking into the report.
It was the second day of clashes in the area. Three militants and one Pakistani soldier were killed in fighting Wednesday.
Islamist militants also have retaliated against the offensive with bombings.
Two police officers were killed and four others wounded when a remote-controlled bomb destroyed their vehicle in Peshawar early Friday, said city police Chief Liaquat Ali Khan.
The attack occurred hours after a suicide bomber killed 19 people in the city, which is the main gateway to the Al Qaeda and Taliban-inhabited border region.
Pakistani officials flagged the offensive in South Waziristan several months before it actually began, which critics say allowed the militants to escape and plan the current wave of terror.