Baitullah Mehsud dead, aide confirms


DERA ISMAIL KHAN: Pakistani Taliban chief Baitullah Mehsud, who led a violent campaign of suicide attacks and assassinations against the Pakistani government, has been killed in a US missile strike, a Taliban commander and aide to Mehsud said Friday.

‘I confirm that Baitullah Mehsud and his wife died in the American missile attack in South Waziristan,’ Kafayatullah told The Associated Press by telephone. He would not give any further details.

Earlier on Friday, three Pakistani intelligence officials said the militant commander had been killed in the missile strike and his body had been buried.

But one of the three said no intelligence agent had actually seen Baitullah Mehsud’s body.

Intelligence sources have confirmed Baitullah’s death, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi told reporters in Islamabad, adding that authorities would travel to the site of the strike to verify his death.

‘To be 100 per cent sure, we are going for ground verification,’ Qureshi said. ‘And once the ground verification re-confirms, which I think is almost confirmed, then we’ll be 100 per cent sure.’

A senior US intelligence official had earlier said there were strong indications that Mehsud was among those killed in Wednesday’s missile attack, but he did not elaborate.

If confirmed, Mehsud’s demise would be a major boost to Pakistani and US efforts to eradicate the Taliban and al-Qaeda.

Mehsud has al-Qaeda connections and has been suspected in the killing of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. Pakistan viewed him as its top internal threat and has been preparing an offensive against him.

For years, though, the US considered Mehsud a lesser threat to its interests than some of the other Pakistani Taliban, their Afghan counterparts and al-Qaeda, because most of his attacks were focused inside Pakistan, not against US and Nato troops in Afghanistan.

That view appeared to change in recent months as Mehsud’s power grew and concerns mounted that increasing violence in Pakistan could destabilise the country and threaten the entire region.

But while Mehsud’s death would be a big blow to the Taliban in Pakistan, he has deputies who could take his place. Whether a new leader could wreak as much havoc as Mehsud depends largely on how much pressure the Pakistani military continues to put on the network, especially in the tribal area of South Waziristan.

The Pakistani intelligence officials said Mehsud was killed in Wednesday’s missile strike on his father-in-law’s home and that his body was buried in the village of Nardusai in South Waziristan, near the site of the strike.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to speak publicly.

One official said he had seen a classified intelligence report stating Mehsud was dead and buried, but that agents had not seen the body since the area is under Taliban control.

Interior Minister Rehman Malik had earlier told reporters outside Parliament he could confirm the death of Mehsud’s wife but not of the Taliban leader himself, although information pointed in that direction.

‘Yes, (a) lot of information is pouring in from that area that he’s dead, but I’m unable to confirm unless I have solid evidence,’ Malik had said.

A security official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue, said ‘about 70 per cent’ of the information pointed to Mehsud’s being dead.

Another senior Pakistani intelligence official said phone and other communications intercepts — he would not be more specific — had led authorities to suspect Mehsud was dead, but he also stressed there was no definitive evidence yet.

An American counterterrorism official said the US government was also looking into the reports. The official indicated the United States did not yet have physical evidence — remains — that would prove who died. But he said there are other ways of determining who was killed in the strike. He declined to describe them.

Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to speak on the matter publicly.

A local tribesman, who also spoke on condition his name not be used, said Mehsud had been at his father-in-law’s house being treated for kidney pain, and had been put on a drip by a doctor, when the missile struck. The tribesman claimed he attended the Taliban chief’s funeral.

Last year, a doctor for Mehsud announced the militant leader had died of kidney failure, but the reports turned out to be false.

In Afghanistan, Defence Ministry spokesman Gen. Mohammad Zahir Azimi said Mehsud’s fighters would cross the border into eastern Afghanistan occasionally to help out one of most ruthless Afghan insurgent leaders Siraj Haqqani.

‘He was an international terrorist that affected India, Pakistan and Afghanistan,’ Azimi said without confirming Mehsud was dead.

In March, the State Department authorised a reward of up to $5 million for the militant chief. Increasingly, American missiles fired by unmanned drones have focused on Mehsud-related targets.

Pakistan publicly opposes the strikes, saying they anger local tribes and make it harder for the army to operate. Still, many analysts suspect the two countries have a secret deal allowing them.

Malik, the interior minister, said Pakistan’s military was determined to finish off Pakistan’s Taliban.

‘It is a targeted law enforcement action against Baitullah Mehsud’s group and it will continue till Baitullah Mehsud’s group is eliminated forever,’ he said.

Pakistan’s record on putting pressure on the Taliban network is spotty. It has used both military action and truces to try to contain Mehsud over the years, but neither tactic seemed to work, despite billions in US aid aimed at helping the Pakistanis tame the tribal areas.

Mehsud was not that prominent a militant when the US invaded Afghanistan in 2001 after the September 11 attacks, according to Mahmood Shah, a former security chief for the tribal regions. In fact, Mehsud has struggled against such rivals as Abdullah Mehsud, an Afghan war veteran who had spent time in Guantanamo Bay.

But a February 2005 peace deal with Mehsud appeared to give him room to consolidate and boost his troop strength. Within months of that accord, dozens of pro-government tribal elders in the region were gunned down on his command.

In December 2007, Mehsud became the head of a new coalition called the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan, or Pakistan’s Taliban movement. Under his guidance, the group killed hundreds of Pakistanis in suicide and other attacks.

Analysts say the reason for Mehsud’s rise in the militant ranks is his alliances with al-Qaeda and other violent groups. US intelligence has said al-Qaeda has set up its operational headquarters in Mehsud’s South Waziristan stronghold and neighbouring North Waziristan.

Mehsud has no record of attacking targets in the west, although he has threatened to attack Washington.

However, he is suspected of being behind a 10-man cell arrested in Barcelona in January 2008 for plotting suicide attacks in Spain. Pakistan’s former government and the CIA have named him as the prime suspect behind the December 2007 killing of Benazir Bhutto. He has denied a role.


Twitter: Under attack | Twitter Security


Cyber attacks hammered Twitter, Facebook, and Google on Thursday, disrupting the hip micro-blogging service and causing stumbles at the hot social-networking site while Google fended off assaults.

Twitter was down for more than an hour early Thursday morning, before the eponymous California firm got it back online.

‘The continuing denial of service attack is being mitigated although there is still degraded service for some folks while we recover completely,’ Twitter co-founder Biz Stone said in an official company blog.

‘Twitter has been working closely with other companies and services affected by what appears to be a single, massively coordinated attack. As to the motivation behind this event, we prefer not to speculate.’

By late Thursday afternoon, Twitter said that service was improving but still sporadic with some people ‘unable to post or follow from the website.’

Facebook was ‘degraded’ by an early-morning distributed-denial-of-service (DDoS) attack on the Palo Alto, California-based Internet star’s website, said Facebook spokeswoman Brandee Barker.

‘No user data was at risk and we have restored full access to the site for most users,’ Barker said. ‘We’re continuing to monitor the situation.’

Twitter and Facebook have teamed with US Internet powerhouse Google to investigate the attacks.

Cyber attacks were launched on Google websites, but the firm deflected the assaults.

‘Google systems prevented substantive impact to our services,’ said company spokesman Nate Tyler.

‘We are aware that a handful of non-Google sites were impacted by a DOS attack this morning, and are in contact with some affected companies to help investigate this attack.’

Hackers evidently employed classic DDoS attacks in which legions of zombie computers, machines infected with viruses, are commanded to simultaneously visit a website.

Such massive onslaught of demand can overwhelm website computer servers, slowing service or knocking it offline.

‘Ten years ago we saw the first DDoS attacks take down some of the world’s largest web sites,’ said Cisco chief security researcher Patrick Peterson.

‘The irony here is that botnets, infected criminally-controlled consumer PCs, are the problem. Many of today’s tweetless are part of the attack if their PC has been infected due to poor security.’

A DDoS attack hit Twitter about 6:00 am local time (1200 GMT) and caused the service to go offline temporarily.

Access to the website continued to be slow, with some aspiring users getting messages telling them that connections had ‘timed out’ because Twitter computers were taking too long to respond.

The attack was the lead topic of conversation at Twitter, as people connected to the service to comment about being unable to connect to the service.

Twitter user Benjamin Hobbs fired off a message saying he ‘wishes the Denial-of-Service idiots would get a life and leave Twitter alone.’

While an everyday chatting tool for many, Twitter has become a weapon used by dissidents to circumvent censorship in places where freedom of speech is suppressed.

[source: Online News & Entertainment]

Victims of Blackwater shooting await guards’ trial

BAGHDAD: Iraqis wounded by gunfire in a Baghdad square 15 months ago are awaiting with guarded hopes the beginning of court proceedings against five former private Blackwater Worldwide security guards.

The five men are to appear in a federal court in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday for an initial hearing on charges of manslaughter in the chaotic few minutes of shooting on Sept. 16, 2007 that killed 17 Iraqi civilians and wounded dozens more. The defendants, who are expected to plead not guilty, contend they opened fire after coming under attack when a car in a State Department convoy they were escorting broke down. But people wounded in the outburst say the shooting was unprovoked. “It all started when they began shooting without any cause, ”Samir Hobi, a taxi driver who was sitting in his car at the scene. “Then the Blackwater vehicles came up on the wrong side and pushed my car away,” said Hobi, who suffered a broken leg. The North Carolina-based Blackwater is the largest contractor providing security in Iraq. Most of its work for the State Department is in protecting U.S. diplomats in Iraq–a job the agency is unable to handle on its own. Many Iraqis saw the bloodshed in Nisoor Square as a demonstration of American brutality and arrogance and suspected the guards would never be called to account.

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Conn. man’s last lotto ticket wins $10M for widow

DANBURY, Conn. – On the day that Donald Peters died, he unknowingly provided financial security for his wife of 59 years and their family.

Peters bought two Connecticut Lottery tickets at a local 7-Eleven store on Nov. 1 as part of a 20-year tradition he shared with his wife Charlotte. Later that day, the 79-year-old retired hat factory worker suffered a fatal heart attack while working in his yard in Danbury.

On Friday, his widow cashed in one of the tickets: a $10 million winner which, in her grief over her husband’s death, she had put aside and almost discarded before recently checking the numbers.

“I’m numb,” Charlotte Peters, 78, said at Connecticut Lottery headquarters in Rocky Hill.

Donald Peters usually bought the tickets for 10 weeks at a stretch, so the winning ticket he bought Nov. 1 for the Dec. 2 drawing was among several that Charlotte Peters put aside as she, their three children and two grandchildren coped with his sudden death.

“I was in the grocery store and I had it checked and they told me I was a winner,” she said. “I had no idea how much it was.”

She said she thought she had won $6 million but was surprised to learn from lottery officials she’d won $10 million.

Charlotte Peters has 60 days to decide whether to take a $6 million pre-tax lump sum payment or stretch the winnings into 21 yearly payments of almost $477,300 each.

She does not yet know what she will do with the money.

“I’ve always wanted a Corvette, but I don’t think I’ll buy one. I’ll stick to a small car. I might go to Mohegan Sun,” she said, referring to the casino in Connecticut. “I’m going to go home and sit and think.”

The Peters children think their father would have appreciated the irony.

“He’d be very mad, he just passed away and she won a lot of money,” said Brian Peters, one of the couple’s three children. “He’d say, ‘Figures!'”

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Israel launches air strikes on Gaza, 120 dead

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip – Israeli aircraft struck Hamas security compounds across Gaza on Saturday in unprecedented waves of simultaneous attacks, and Hamas and medics reported dozens of people were killed.

The strikes caused widespread panic and confusion as black smoke rose above Gaza. Health Ministry official Moawiya Hassanain said at least 120 people were killed and more than 250 wounded. Officials said others were still buried under the rubble.

In one of the Hamas compounds, the bodies of more than a dozen uniformed security officers were seen lying on the ground. One survivor raised his index finger in a show of Muslim faith, uttering a prayer. Among the dead was the Gaza police chief, Maj. Gen. Tawfiq Jaber, witnesses said.

Hamas officials said all of Gaza’s security compounds were destroyed. Hamas said it would seek revenge, including launching new rocket attacks on Israel and sending suicide bombers to Israel.

“Hamas will continue the resistance until the last drop of blood,” said Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum, speaking on a Gaza radio station.

Israel confirmed it carried out a series of air strikes on Hamas installations but did not provide details. Israel has warned in recent days it would strike back hard against continued rocket fire from Gaza on Israeli border towns.

There was no sign of an Israel ground offensive accompanying the air attacks.

Israel urged its residents living near Gaza to seek refuge in secure locations in apparent anticipation of Hamas rocket fire.

The first round of air strikes came just before noon and several more waves followed.

Hamas security compounds are often located in civilian areas. The first air strikes took place as children were leaving school. Plumes of black smoke rose over Gaza City, sirens wailed through the streets and women frantically looked for their children.

One man sat in the middle of a Gaza City street, close to a security compound, alternately slapping his face and covering his head with dust from the bombed-out building. “My son is gone, my son is gone,” wailed Sadi Masri, 57. The shopkeeper said he sent his son out to purchase cigarettes minutes before the airstrikes began and now could not find him. “May I burn like the cigarettes, may Israel burn,” Masri moaned.

Civilians rushed to the targeted areas, trying to move the wounded in their cars to hospitals.

Television footage showed Gaza City hospitals crowded with people, civilians rushing in wounded people in cars, vans and ambulances. “We are treating people on the floor, in the corridors. We have no more space. We don’t know who is here and what the priority is to treat,” said one doctor who hung up the phone before identifying himself at Shifa Hosptial, Gaza’s main treatment center.

In the West Bank, Hamas’ rival, moderate Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, said in a statement that he “condemns this aggression” and calls for restraint, according to an aide, Nabil Abu Rdeneh.

Israel has targeted Gaza in the past, but the number of simultaneous attacks was unprecedented.

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Homeland Security forecasts 5-year terror threats

WASHINGTON – The terrorism threat to the United States over the next five years will be driven by instability in the Middle East and Africa, persistent challenges to border security and increasing Internet savvy, says a new intelligence assessment obtained by The Associated Press.

Chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear attacks are considered the most dangerous threats that could be carried out against the U.S. But those threats are also the most unlikely because it is so difficult for al-Qaida and similar groups to acquire the materials needed to carry out such plots, according to the internal Homeland Security Threat Assessment for the years 2008-2013.

The al-Qaida terrorist network continues to focus on U.S. attack targets vulnerable to massive economic losses, casualties and political “turmoil,” the assessment said.

Earlier this month, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said the threat posed by weapons of mass destruction remains “the highest priority at the federal level.” Speaking to reporters on Dec. 3, Chertoff explained that more people, such as terrorists, will learn how to make dirty bombs, biological and chemical weapons. “The other side is going to continue to learn more about doing things,” he said.

Marked “for official use only,” the report does not specify its audience, but the assessments typically go to law enforcement, intelligence officials and the private sector. When determining threats, intelligence officials consider loss of life, economic and psychological consequences.

Intelligence officials also predict that in the next five years, terrorists will try to conduct a destructive biological attack. Officials are concerned about the possibility of infections to thousands of U.S. citizens, overwhelming regional health care systems.

There could also be dire economic impacts caused by workers’ illnesses and deaths. Officials are most concerned about biological agents stolen from labs or other storage facilities, such as anthrax.

“The threat of terrorism and the threat of extremist ideologies has not abated,” Chertoff said in his year-end address on Dec. 18. “This threat has not evaporated, and we can’t turn the page on it.”

These high-consequence threats are not the only kind of challenges that will confront the U.S. over the next five years.

Terrorists will continue to try to evade U.S. border security measures and place operatives inside the mainland to carry out attacks, the 38-page assessment said. It also said that they may pose as refugees or asylum seekers or try to exploit foreign travel channels such as the visa waiver program, which allows citizens of 34 countries to enter the U.S. without visas.

Long waits for immigration and more restrictive European refugee and asylum programs will cause more foreigners to try to enter the U.S. illegally. Increasing numbers of Iraqis are expected to migrate to the U.S. in the next five years; and refugees from Somalia and Sudan could increase because of conflicts in those countries, the assessment said.

Because there is a proposed cap of 12,000 refugees from Africa, officials expect more will try to enter the U.S. illegally as well. Officials predict the same scenario for refugees from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan.

Intelligence officials predict the pool of radical Islamists within the U.S. will increase over the next five years due partly to the ease of online recruiting means. Officials foresee “a wave of young, self-identified Muslim ‘terrorist wannabes’ who aspire to carry out violent acts.”

The U.S. has already seen some examples of these homegrown terrorists. Recently five Muslim immigrants were convicted of plotting to massacre U.S. soldiers at Fort Dix in a case the government said demonstrated its post-Sept. 11 determination to stop terrorist attacks in the planning stages.

The Lebanese Shiite group Hezbollah does not have a known history of fomenting attacks inside the U.S., but that could change if there is some kind of “triggering” event, the Homeland assessment cautions.

A 2008 Interagency Intelligence Committee on Terrorism assessment said that Hezbollah members based in the U.S. do local fundraising through charity projects and criminal activity, like money laundering, smuggling, drug trafficking, fraud and extortion, according to the homeland security assessment.

In addition, the cyber terror threat is expected to increase over the next five years, as hacking tools become more sophisticated and available. “Youthful, Internet-savvy extremists might apply their online acumen to conduct cyber attacks rather than offer themselves up as operatives to conduct physical attacks,” according to the assessment.

Currently, Islamic terrorists, including al-Qaida, would like to conduct cyber attacks, but they lack the capability to do so, the assessment said. The large-scale attacks that are on al-Qaida’s wishlist — such as disrupting a major city’s water or power systems — require sophisticated cyber capabilities that the terrorist group does not possess.

But al-Qaida has the capability to hire sophisticated hackers to carry out these kinds of attacks, the assessment said. And federal officials believe that in the next three to five years, al-Qaida could direct or inspire cyber attacks that target the U.S. economy.

Counterterrorism expert Frank Cilluffo says the typical cyber attack would not achieve al-Qaida’s main goal of inflicting mass devastation with its resulting widespread media coverage. However, al-Qaida is likely to continue to rely on the Internet to spread its message, said Cilluffo, who runs the Homeland Security Policy Institute at George Washington University.

Officials also predict that domestic terrorists in the forms of radical animal rights and environmental extremists will become more adept with explosives and increase their use of arson attacks.

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Pakistan to retaliate befittingly incase of Indian aggression: Rabbani

ISLAMABAD: Leader of the house Mian Raza Rabbani has said if India makes the mistake of launching aggression against Pakistan, a tit for tat reply will be given.

Wrapping up debate over national security in senate on Wednesday Mian Raza Rabbani said government of Pakistan exercised restraint against irresponsible attitude of India following Mumbai attacks. Government made all out efforts to foster national consensus in the country.

India should not consider positive attitude of Pakistan as its weakness, he said adding if India tried to thrust war on Pakistan then people, government and armed forces would jointly inflict crushing defeat on enemy.

He reiterated India should provide evidence to Pakistan. Chief of Interpol had also said India had not given any evidence so far.

If India provided any solid proof on involvement of any Pakistani in Mumbai attacks, then we would register a case against him as per law of land and no Pakistani citizen would be handed over to India, he announced.

Pakistan had stepped up diplomatic contacts in the post Mumbai attacks situation, he said adding President, prime minister and foreign minister had contacted their counterparts and Pakistan embassies were reactivated, he told.

It was made clear on the world that steps being taken by India were threatening for the global and regional peace

Replying on a point of order he said no plan was under consideration to slap emergency in the country nor any summary had been worked out in this respect. He ruled out any difference between President and Prime Minister with reference to chairmanship of NFC meeting.

On a Point of Order in the Upper House on Wednesday, Opposition Leader in the Senate Mian Raza Rabbani was of the view that security situation in tribal areas is extremely dangerous hoping that Government would end the miseries of people residing in Tribal Areas at the earliest.

Government has no Magic Lamp to solve the problems in Tribal Areas at once, he held.

Opposition Leader in the Senate Mian Raza Rabbani was of the view that undoubtedly it is an Ideological War urging Government is involved in a process of dialogue with Elders of Tribal Areas since last many days to defuse Tension.

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Interior Ministry directs provinces to step up security

ISLAMABAD: Federal Ministry of Interior has alerted the provinces that two militants’ organizations could attempt attacks at Majalis and processions during the holy month of Moharram-ul-Haram.

It said this in a communication sent to the four provincial governments and law enforcing agencies.

IG Punjab, in the light of the above directives, ordered all the DCOs and Divisional Commissioners including Additional IG Special Branch to intensify security to forestall any attacks by the terrorists during the month of Moharram.

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ISI, a freelance protector of national security of Pakistan

ISI is protecting the national security of Pakistan and combating any viable threat to its borders from outside and since 1971 from within. It is not different to the work of the CIA, KGB, RAW, Mossad, and MI5 & MI6 who work day in day out to avert any threat to the security of their own respective countries.

The passionate work of this institution though is hardly in the public domain but is paramount when the threat is looming from its neighboring country on its borders, heavy presence of a foreign force on its western borders, and the presence of groups like ‘Makti bahni’ which are promoted, financed and cultured inside Pakistani bordering areas by its enemy. The need of their passionate work become more imperative when the corrupt elite of the country wish to derail the sovereignty of the country and endanger the security of the state by forging an alliance with super power in lust for power putting aside national interest.

Pakistan army unfortunately has spent around 4 decades in power corridors and no other but indecisive & corrupt politicians who lack political will, weaker institutions, tame judiciary and selfish & unprofessional bureaucracy is cumulatively responsible for not erecting a viable democracy where rule of law, good governance, justice and constitutionalism holds sway. In fact, non action on ‘Murree accord,’ continued violation of our air space by drones and China’s support of unchallenged UNSC Resolution no. 1267 is a self evidence of our politician’s poor performance. In fact, our rulers allegedly in an ultra parliamentary decision requested china to let go of the technical hold, making it a strong case for Parliamentary intervention to probe unless they seek army intervention by their default.

Former premier Nawaz Sharif is through his vision calling those who are calling shots to make their promises to learn lessons from the history before its too late and is foreseeing those coming who never went out of politics. In the absence of Parliament which stood on 12 Oct 1999, it will be an uphill struggle to put barricades in the way of military unless Charter of Democracy is enacted forthwith, though it is not looking imminent. I think Q league’s Mushahid Hussain has put forward a claim for national government but to many when air force is on high alert and any time Indian air forces may attempt to target some of the MDI outlets emphasises the need of ‘national security government’ due to a weaker political leadership who endanger the security more. That National Security government may be a joint work of DSC and Parliament where army and civilian leadership in conformity work to safeguard the country and avert the threat of aggression against its borders as it’s do or die stage for Pakistan.

As long as all stake holders do not sit on one table and see eye to eye with each other and have a joint aim to safeguard the national interest, promote supreme parliament concept  and produce a good governance. In the absence of a failure of the implementation on COD and negation of 18th Feb mandate, I am afraid we will keep seeing illusions everywhere. Pakistan no doubt, is in a very critical situation but sending DG ISI will not solve problems with India. India is playing at the hands of others and going to aggression will ignite a fire within India too which will not be easily put out. With Bombay attacks India is coercively rewarded and Pakistan’s hand is twisted to do more. Pakistan though is committed on war on terrorism but wishes to redraw the procedure under which he will contribute.

Pakistani leaders need to decide whether they wish to move forward democratically or are ready to cave in meagerly at the hands of US pressure as matters have gone ahead of drone attacks now. In this cloud the work of ISI is praiseworthy, As it is combating major intelligence forces in the region and in particular Indian threat successfully. Its a thankless job, unlike Army Generals who enjoy the perks and privileges but the work of this agency is far more difficult then one can comprehend.

Extremism has given new twist to international information sharing process, and India has rightly advantaged this weakness. Their aim is to weaken the country and do not allow it to flourish an economic or military power. They also wish it to remain weak on political front with a military run regime where legitimacy always question their viability as a state. I think ISI made Pakistan stronger in the wake of emanating threats from around since 1971 and no doubt, it has advanced in order to meet the 21st century requirements and has developed from human intelligence to scientific knowledge. It’s a high time that people sees ISI separately than army rule. In army rule ISI’s job is doubled but in civil they revert to their old task to safe guard the state from any danger to its ‘national security’ from outside.

Looking at the bleak situation of Pakistani rulers, there is not much help to this institution from our incumbent leaders and this freelance protector of national security is carrying on its job silently, rewardlessly and quietly in the line of its duty. Pakistanis need to understand that their country’s security from foreign espionage is intact despite the high level of threat.

Missiles kill at least eight in northwestern Pakistan

DERA ISMAIL KHAN, Pakistan — Suspected U.S. missile strikes killed at least eight people Monday in volatile northwest Pakistan, officials and witnesses said.

Bakht Janan, a local security official at a check post, said an unmanned drone aircraft began circling over the village of Kari Khel around 3 a.m., then fired missiles at two vehicles several hours later. Witnesses told The Associated Press that one of the vehicles had been blasting away with an anti-aircraft gun at the drone.

Four people were killed as missiles hit the vehicle and an adjacent, fortlike house, while four others died and one was injured in the second vehicle eight kilometres away by dirt track.

Janan said an unexploded missile was found on the ground near the first vehicle.

Yar Mohammad, a villager, said local Taliban pulled out bodies from the rubble while cordoning off the scene about 15 kilometres south of Wana, the main town in the South Waziristan tribal area near the Afghan border.

The U.S. has carried out a series of more than 30 missile strikes since August in Pakistan’s lawless, semiautonomous tribal areas, targeting al-Qaida and Taliban militants blamed for attacks in Afghanistan. While the missile strikes have killed scores of militants, Pakistani officials have criticized them as an infringement of its sovereignty and say they undermine their own war on terror.

Most of the missiles are believed to have been launched from unmanned spy planes that take off from Afghanistan. Washington rarely confirms or denies the attacks.