WANA, Sept 3: At least 20 people, most of them women and children, were killed in an assault by US-led coalition forces on a village near the Afghan border on Wednesday.

According to people in Musa Neka Ziarat, three US helicopters landed in the plains at around 4am, troops disembarked from them and attacked a house, killing 10 people.

They said that two children, three women and five men were killed in the attack on the house of one Payo Jan Torjikhel. A woman survived the indiscriminate shooting, they said.

The troops then opened fire on villagers who had come out of their homes, killing another 10 people. The victims, including three children and two women, belonged to the families of Faiz Mohammad and Nazar Jan.

Payo Jan and Nazar Jan were also killed.

Local people said Payo Jan and the two other families had no association with militants.

“The Americans came in helicopters, landed, walked up to the houses, started shooting and then flew back towards Afghanistan,” a villager told Dawn.

“It is an outrage,” NWFP Governor Owais Ahmad Ghani said in a statement. “This is a direct assault on the sovereignty of Pakistan and the people expect that the armed forces of Pakistan will rise to defend the sovereignty of the country and give a befitting reply.”

The attack comes amid an increase in the number of missile and predator attacks on suspected Al Qaeda hideouts in Waziristan in recent days.

It was the first known ground assault of its kind.

A security official said the Americans no longer shared information with Pakistan before launching missile or predator attacks in the tribal region. “They are not sharing any information with us. These are all totally unilateral actions.”

Our Reporter in Islamabad adds: Inter-Services Public Relations chief Maj-Gen Athar Abbas said, “In the wee hours of the morning on Sept 3, Isaf (International Security Assistance Force) troops in two helicopters landed at a village near Angoor Adda, South Waziristan Agency, and as per reports received so far, killed seven innocent civilians.”The army spokesman condemned the “completely unprovoked act of killing” and regretted the loss of precious lives.

He blamed the coalition forces for the violent act and said that such acts of aggression would not serve the common cause of fighting terrorism and militancy in the area.

He said the Pakistan Army had lodged a strong protest with the Office of the Defence Representative in Pakistan and said that “we reserve the right of self-defence and retaliation to protect our citizens and soldiers against aggression”.

There were unconfirmed reports that the Isaf troops had also captured some people and taken them to Afghanistan.

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