The Pakistani government will compensate the families of 39 people killed in a recent American missile attack close to the Afghan border, an official said Saturday, one of first times authorities have announced such a move.
The March 17 strike in North Waziristan district was condemned by Pakistan's army chief Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, who said the victims were innocent civilians, something denied by a U.S. official. Kayani's statement represented a rare public criticism by the Pakistani military of the United States over one of the attacks.
The missile targeted a meeting taking place in a house in the area. The strike came a day after an American CIA contractor who shot dead two Pakistanis was released from prison, unleashing a storm of anti-U.S. sentiment in the media and on the street.
The Pakistani army had attracted unusual criticism for its perceived role in allowing Raymond Allen Davis' release. Many political analysts here have said Kayani's condemnation of the attack was likely aimed at deflecting that criticism more than anything else.
North Waziristan government administrator Mohammad Asghar said the heirs _ as defined under Islamic tradition _ of those killed in the strike would each receive US$3,530 next week. He said the wounded would receive US$1,176 per person. Authorities have not released the number of those wounded in the strike.
A U.S. official has said the dead were militants or militant sympathizers, and there had been no public investigation of the strike. Washington does not publicly admit firing the missiles or give details on who it is killing. Unlike across the border in Afghanistan, it is not known to compensate the families of innocents killed.
America routinely fires missiles against al-Qaida and Taliban targets close to the Afghan border, and U.S. officials say privately Pakistan assists in some of the strikes. But the program is publicly opposed by Pakistan's government and army because it believes admitting collaborating with America in attacks on its own people would be highly damaging politically.
North Waziristan is under effective militant control, and the army prevents foreign and Pakistani journalists from visiting.