Pak air strike kills 71 civilians: Official
Peshawar, Feb 13: Up to 71 civilians were killed in a weekend strike by Pakistani jets near the Afghan border, survivors and a government official said - a rare confirmation of civilian casualties that risks undercutting public support for the fight against militants.
The government official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject, said authorities had already handed out the equivalent of $125,000 in compensation to families of the victims in a remote village in the Khyber tribal area.
Also Tuesday, a village elder claimed 13 civilians had been killed in US missile strike on Monday night elsewhere in the northwest, contesting accounts by Pakistani security officials that four militants were killed.
Pakistan's tribal regions are largely out of bounds for reporters and dangerous to visit because of the likelihood of being abducted by militants, who still control much of the area, making it very difficult to verify casualty figures.
Army spokesman Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas on Monday denied that any of the dead in the Pakistani air force attack were civilians, saying the army had intelligence that militants were gathering at the site of the strike. The victims were initially reported to be suspected militants.
Two survivors interviewed Tuesday in hospital in the main northwestern city of Peshawar gave the first detailed account of the attack, which took place Saturday morning.
They said most of the victims were killed when they were trying to rescue people trapped by an earlier strike on the house of a village elder.
“This house was bombed on absolutely wrong information,” said Khanan Gul Khan, a resident of the village who was visiting a relative in hospital. “This area has nothing to do with militants.” Khan said many of the families in the village, Sara Walla, had sons serving in the security forces and that it had a history of cooperating with the army. He said the owner of the house that was bombed initially, Hamid Khan, had two sons serving in the paramilitary Frontier Corps.
He said 68 people were killed and many more wounded. The political official said Monday that the families of 71 victims had been compensated, but did not identify them.
The Pakistani army, under heavy pressure from the United States, has moved forcefully against Taleban and Al-Qaeda militants in the northwest over the last 18 months. It regularly reports killing scores of militants in airstrikes, but rarely says it is responsible for civilian deaths. AP
Lastupdate on : Wed, 13 Feb 2013 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Wed, 13 Feb 2013 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Thu, 14 Feb 2013 00:00:00 IST
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