The targets of a suspected U.S. missile strike in Pakistan’s northwestern militant strongholds appeared to have survived Sunday by quickly abandoning their vehicle after an unmanned aircraft missed its first shot, local officials said.
It was one of the few reports of anyone surviving one of the escalating barrage of missiles fired by remotely piloted aircraft, which have become a key weapon in the wider U.S.-led war against Islamist militants in Afghanistan.
Local Pakistani television initially reported four people killed in the latest American attack in North Waziristan, where Taliban and al-Qaida-allied fighters control safe havens outside the central government’s control.
However, two Pakistani intelligence officials who investigated told The Associated Press that no bodies were found and all their sources indicated the occupants of the car survived the attack near Hassan Khel village.
They said an American drone fired one of its missiles but missed the speeding vehicle, and its occupants quickly bailed out before the second missile hit and destroyed it. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak on the record.
Sunday’s missile strike was the 13th this month. The U.S. has sharply ramped up its unacknowledged search-and-destroy program this year, launching more than 110 this year in hopes of killing militant leaders who run terrorist training camps and plot attacks on American and NATO troops across the border in Afghanistan.