- - Thursday, March 17, 2011

PAKISTAN

U.S. missiles kill 38 militants

MIR ALI | U.S. unmanned aircraft fired four missiles into a building where suspected militants were meeting Thursday, killing 38 of them in an unusually deadly strike close to the Afghan border, Pakistani intelligence officials said.

The strikes took place in the Datta Khel area of the North Waziristan tribal region - the main sanctuary for al Qaeda and Taliban fighters along the Afghan border, said the officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media.

Seven militants were wounded in the strikes, said the officials. While it was unclear exactly how many militants were present at the meeting, it appeared that almost all of them were killed or wounded.

The militants were allied with Hafiz Gul Bahadur, a powerful Pakistani Taliban commander in the area who has focused his efforts on fighting foreign troops in Afghanistan, said the officials. The insurgents were discussing plans to send new groups of fighters across the border, the intelligence officials added.

The most senior militant killed in the attack was Sharabat Khan, Mr. Bahadur’s top commander for the Datta Khel area, who was leading the meeting, said the officials. Several foreign militants were also killed.

TAJIKISTAN

Moscow-led group worried about Afghan drawdown

DUSHANBE | A Russian-led regional security body said Thursday it is too early to withdraw NATO troops from Afghanistan without risking instability in the former Soviet republics in central Asia.

“I believe that today Afghanistan on its own is unable to resist the threats existing there now,” Nikolai Bordyuzha, secretary-general of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) pact, told a news conference in the Tajik capital.

“To pull out troops now means to doom Afghanistan to colossal problems and create a threat to the entire [Central Asian] region,” he said.

The CSTO security pact, which includes Russia, Belarus, Armenia and Central Asian nations of Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, controls an important land route from Europe to Afghanistan and acts as a counterweight to NATO in the region.

President Obama has promised to start withdrawing U.S. troops in Afghanistan, who now number nearly 100,000 out of NATO’S total 150,000, in July.

CHINA

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