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KHAR (Bajaur Agency), Jan 13: Eighteen people, including 14 members of a family, were killed and six others injured early on Friday when US aircraft fired missiles at residential compounds in Damadola village in Bajaur Agency, officials and local people said.

Government officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said that four aircraft violated the country’s airspace and entered the tribal area from Afghanistan’s troubled Kunar province at about 3am.

The intruding aircraft fired at least nine missiles at houses in Damadola, about 10 kilometres northeast of Khar, the agency’s headquarters, an official said.

Eyewitnesses said that a majority of the slain victims were women and children. Up to 14 of these victims belonged to one family, they said.

The shelling wrought damage on houses and killed about two dozen head of cattle.

Some of the victims were identified as Hussain Nawaz, a five-year-old child, 9-year-old Mehda Bibi, 10-year-old Sadiqa Bibi, 9-year-old Taib, seven-year-old Zahidullah, Amir Mohammad, Bibi Noor Pari, Shah Baden Bibi, Zahira Bibi, Qari Seedullah and Bekhtpur Khan.

Sources said that four planes came about 50 kilometres inside Pakistani air-space and targeted mud houses in Berkandi area of Damadola, largely inhabited by the Mamond tribe.

Sources said that the Mamond sub-division is considered a stronghold of the banned Tehrik Nifaz-i-Shariat-i-Mohammadi led by Maulana Sufi Mohammad. Maulana Sufi has been in Dera Ismail Khan jail since the fall of the Taliban government.

An eyewitness said that he saw four aircraft flying over Mamond sub-division of the Bajaur Agency at about 3am, which disappeared in the western sky limits without making any attack.

He said the planes again appeared over the tribal area and bombed some targets in the Barkandi locality of Damadola.

“I saw four aircraft entering the area from Kunar province, which hovered over the area for half an hour,” said Mohammad Rafiq, a resident of the area.

Director General Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) Maj-Gen Shaukat Sultan was evasive and did not confirm intrusion of the US aircraft into the tribal area.

“The federal information minister has already issued a statement about the incident and the authorities have looked into the issue,” Mr Sultan told Dawn by phone from Islamabad.

However, Bajaur Agency MNA, Haji Haroon Rashid, contradicted the official version that explosions inside residential compounds had caused casualties and damage.

“This is absolutely wrong. Planes came in the area and fired missiles”, Mr Haroon told Dawn. He said the intruding aircraft had fired at least nine missiles, which destroyed three residential compounds.

“These aircraft came in from Kunar side which were flying over the area for half-an-hour,” he said.