Explosions in a Pakistani village near Afghanistan killed at least 17 people early Friday. Pakistani officials said it was a cross-border rocket attack but a local lawmaker claimed it was a U.S. missile strike. The U.S. military said it had no information about the attack the second such deadly strike launched on targets inside Pakistan within a week. An Afghan official denied it was launched from its side of the border.
Islamic militants from groups like al-Qaida, the Taliban and the militia of renegade Afghan warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar are believed to be active in the area. Last Saturday, an attack on a cleric's home elsewhere on the porous and often ill-defined border killed eight people. Local tribesmen blamed U.S. forces for the deaths, and Pakistan's government protested to the U.S. military in Afghanistan. Information Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed said it would take time to determine what caused the explosions at the village on Friday.
Pakistani security and army officials said a rocket hit a house in Damadola in the Bajur tribal area, about 7 kilometers (4 miles) inside Pakistan. Damadola lies about 200 kilometers (125 miles) southeast of Islamabad.
An army official, who declined to be named as he wasn't authorized to speak to the media, said the house belonged to Gul Zaman, a Bajur elder. Mohammed Karim, a doctor from a hospital in Bajur, said 17 or 18 people were killed and two were wounded.
Sahibzada Haroon ur Rashid, a local lawmaker who visited the scene of the attack, said the dead included women and children, who were buried in a mass grave. He told The Associated Press that villagers said they "saw a spy plane guiding jet fighters which fired missiles at the home of Gul Zaman." He said three homes inside a compound in the village had been destroyed.
Rashid, a lawmaker for Bajur from a hardline Islamic party, demanded Pakistan's government explain who was behind the attack. He said local people would stage a protest Saturday. "Our people say Americans did it. If it is true, then Pakistan should lodge a strong protest with the U.S. government for killing innocent people," he said.
In Kabul, U.S. military spokesman Lt. Mike Cody said he had no reports on the attack. In Afghanistan's eastern province of Kunar, which borders Bajur, deputy provincial governor Noor Mohammed denied Pakistani allegations that the strike was launched from within Afghanistan.
"I have been in touch with all the security forces in Kunar and no one has heard about this," he said. "I don't think it's true the rocket came from within Afghanistan." Pakistani tribal elders claimed last week's air strike in the North Waziristan tribal region, about 200 kilometers (125 miles) southwest of Bajur, was launched by American helicopters that then landed inside Pakistan and took away five tribesmen. The U.S. military denied it had bombed the area, reports the AP. N.U.