August 13, 2008 / 5:00 AM / 11 years ago

UPDATE 5-Missile strike kills nine militants in Pakistan

(Updates with bomb blast in Lahore)

By Hafiz Wazir

WANA, Pakistan, Aug 13 (Reuters) - At least nine militants were killed in a missile strike on their training camp in Pakistan’s South Waziristan region, near the Afghan border, security officials and residents said on Wednesday.

In a separate incident, a suspected suicide bomb attack outside a police station in the city of Lahore killed three people, police said.

Militant violence has been plaguing the nuclear-armed U.S. ally and helping to undermine investor confidence, as a crisis looms over attempts by a new coalition government to oust unpopular President Pervez Musharraf.

The rupee weakened to a new low of around 75.05/15 to the dollar as investors fretted over political worries. Stocks hovered near two-year lows.

The missile strike in South Waziristan took place on Tuesday night in Bhagar, about 35 km (22 miles) west of Wana, the region’s main town.

U.S. forces stationed in Afghanistan have carried out several drone-launched missile attacks this year in Pakistan’s border regions, known al Qaeda and Taliban sanctuaries. Dozens of suspected militants have been killed.

An intelligence official in South Waziristan, who declined to be identified, told Reuters that at least four missiles were fired from across the border, hitting one of two militant training camps.

“This camp was run by Hizb-e-Islami and there were about 15 people including foreigners there at the time of the attack,” he said referring to a militant faction allied with the Taliban.

Militants sealed off the area and were not letting anyone approach, he said, adding: “Our information is that they have recovered nine bodies.”

Residents said aircraft had been flying over the area before the attack, which they said killed 12 people, some of them foreigners.

LEADER ASSASSINATED

Pakistani military spokesmen were not available for comment.

A U.S. military spokesman in Afghanistan denied any involvement and a spokesman for a separate NATO-led force said he had no reports of any fire into Pakistan.

Predator drone aircraft that can fire missiles are operated by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency.

Separately, in Bara town in the northwestern region of Khyber, a gunman shot dead Islamist faction leader Haji Namdar at a meeting at his office, where in May he escaped a suicide bomb attack.

Namdar led a group called the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, which promoted Taliban-style rule, but he was known to have had differences with Pakistan’s main Taliban group.

Rival Islamist groups have been vying for power in Khyber, where security forces recently conducted a sweep to push militants back from the outskirts of Peshawar.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for a bomb attack on an air force bus that killed 13 people in Peshawar on Wednesday.

There was no immediate claim for the blast in Lahore which came as the country prepared to celebrate its independence anniversary on Thursday.

Adding to security worries, a car bomb attack on police killed two passers-by in gas-rich Baluchistan province, where autonomy-seeking rebels have been fighting for years. (Additional reporting by Kamran Haider, Alamgir Bitani, Ibrahim Shinwari, Gul Yousafzai and Jonathon Burch; Editing by Robert Birsel)

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