DERA ISMAIL KHAN, Pakistan &

A missile strike in a Pakistani tribal region killed at least nine suspected insurgents including foreigners, officials said today, raising suspicion that the U.S. was again targeting militants in Pakistan.




A spokesman for the U.S. military denied it was behind the four missiles that struck the compound late Tuesday in a remote and mountainous area near Angore Adda in South Waziristan. However, past strikes are believed to have been conducted by the CIA using Predator drones.




The tribal regions are considered havens for al-Qaida and Taliban-linked militants who plot and stage attacks on U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, and the U.S. has repeatedly urged Pakistan to bring those areas under control. The missile strikes, however, have strained ties between Washington and Islamabad.




A Pakistan military official told The Associated Press that at least nine people died in the latest strike. Two Pakistan intelligence officials said between 22 and 25 people died &

including Arabs, Turkmen and Pakistani militants &

in the strike, which was apparently launched from Afghanistan.




They said the camp is linked to the group of Afghan warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, whose followers are fighting U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan. They said it was not clear if the camp leader, an Afghan identified as Commander Zangeer, or senior militants were killed.




Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammed Sadiq said he had no official information on the strike. In the past, Pakistan has decried the missile strikes as violations of its sovereignty.




U.S. military spokesman 1st Lt. Nathan Perry in Afghanistan said, "I've got no reports of any border incidents, any cross-border incidents, so it wasn't us."




Pakistan's army spokesman was not available to comment. The other Pakistani officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.




Suspected U.S. missile strikes have killed at least two senior al-Qaida militants inside Pakistan this year, including an Egyptian explosives and poison expert, Abu Khabab al-Masri, who died in a strike in South Waziristan in July.




Separately Wednesday, Pakistani forces backed by helicopter gunships pounded militant positions in the Bajur tribal region in an operation that has displaced thousands of people in the past week.




At least 25 suspected militants were killed Wednesday and another 30 were wounded in airstrikes in several villages in the region, according to military officials. Before the latest fighting, the army reported that at least 150 militants and nine paramilitary troops had been killed so far.




There has been no way to independently confirm the death toll in the remote and insecure region.




Early Wednesday, gunmen attacked the headquarters of a banned militant group in the Khyber tribal region and shot dead its leader, his spokesman said.




Haji Namdar died of his wounds after he was taken to a hospital from the shooting in Barqambarkhel, about seven miles from the region's main town of Bara, Munsaf Khan said.




Namdar's supporters captured two suspects after the shooting, Khan said. He refused to identify them and said it was too early to say who was behind the attack.




The Vice and Virtue Movement was among three groups banned in June when security forces launched an operation to curb militancy and lawlessness in Khyber, amid concern that the main northwestern city of Peshawar could be under threat.




A key supply route for U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan snakes through the region.




""""""




Associated Press writers Riaz Khan in Peshawar and Habib Khan in Khar contributed to this report.