MIRAN SHAH, Pakistan — Missiles destroyed the house of a suspected militant leader Sunday in a Pakistani tribal area near the Afghan border, killing about 20 people, witnesses and state-run media reported.
The Pakistani military said five or six explosions were heard near Wana, the main town in South Waziristan, but it could not confirm the cause. There were casualties, but it was unclear how many, said Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas, an army spokesman.
State-run Pakistan Television said seven missiles were involved in Sunday’s strike in a tribal area of South Waziristan. The report did not indicate where the missiles were believed to have originated. But U.S.-led coalition forces based in neighboring Afghanistan have launched attacks inside the Pakistani border in the past.
Maj. Chris Belcher, a U.S. military spokesman in Afghanistan, said coalition forces conducted an operation Sunday in Paktika province, which lies just across the border from South Waziristan. But he said he had no information about the Pakistan strike and that he doubted the two incidents were related.
Pakistan has been battling Islamic militants linked to Al Qaeda and the Taliban in its regions bordering Afghanistan. The U.S. considers the country’s effort vital to the war on terrorism.
A local tribesman in the area said he saw unmanned drones overhead just before the attack. At least two hit and destroyed the home of a local militant leader and Taliban sympathizer who goes by the single name Noorullah, Rahim Khan told The Associated Press.
Only American forces are known to have unmanned drones that conduct operations in the region.
Khan said the house — a huge, fortress-like compound — was known as a hub for visiting foreign militants. Four of those killed were not locals, he said without elaborating.
Seven other people were wounded in the attack, he said.
The missiles completely destroyed the building, toppling walls made of mud bricks mixed with stone, Khan said. Taliban supporters immediately surrounded the area.
Two Pakistani intelligence officials in the area, both speaking on condition of anonymity because of the nature of their work, said another house nearby was also destroyed. Arab and Uzbek militants had been staying in the house, which belongs to a tribesman named Safraz Khan, the officials said.
Eight to ten people were killed in the second house, they said.
In January, a U.S. missile strike on a house killed Abu Laith al-Libi, a senior Al Qaeda militant, near Miran Shah, the main town of neighboring North Waziristan. Pakistani intelligence officials said they found the remains of satellite phones and a computer in that wreckage.