MIRAN SHAH, Pakistan — Hundreds of students chanting "Death to America" protested Pakistan's support for the American-led fight against terrorism, as the government said yesterday that security forces would show "no leniency" in the conflict with violent Islamists.
In the latest violence, a missile strike near the Afghan border destroyed a suspected militant hideout and killed 12 people inside, intelligence and government officials said.
Pakistan is facing a surge in religious extremism that has seen pro-Taliban fighters gain sway in the northwest and launch a wave of suicide bombings in cities and assaults on troops struggling to maintain a grip on the borderlands.
About 370 people have died this month in militant-related violence nationwide, according to an Associated Press tally based on figures from the military and other officials.
In Miran Shah, the main town in the tribal border region of North Waziristan, more than 500 students and others rallied yesterday to demand an end to Pakistan's military cooperation with America.
"The Pakistan army is committing atrocities," a student, Najib Ullah, said. "They must stop."
Pakistan allied itself with Washington after the September 11, 2001, attacks on New York and Washington.
Yesterday, a meeting of top security officials in Islamabad, chaired by the interior minister, Lieutenant General Hamid Nawaz, affirmed the commitment to combat militancy. It directed authorities "to take stringent measures to curb [terrorist] elements involved in militancy and violence, with no leniency."
Yesterday's missile strike happened in Khushali Torikhel, a village in North Waziristan about 40 miles east of the border, local officials said on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to journalists.
A resident said an armed drone may have carried out the strike. "We could see a small, white plane flying over the village for the past several days," villager Dildar Khan said.
An Interior Ministry spokesman said he had no information about any missile strike.
[A senior Bush administration official said yesterday that America is pushing Pakistan to fix "serious distortions" ahead of February 18 parliamentary elections.
The assistant secretary of state for South Asia, Richard Boucher, conceded before a House panel that "if history is any guide," some fraud will occur. But he said a vibrant, though still restricted, press and international observers, including American officials, will help curb cheating.
Lawmakers at the hearing criticized the Bush administration for its steadfast support of President Musharraf despite his suspension of the constitution and declaration of emergency rule last year, his purge of the judiciary and the arrests of thousands of opponents. Mr. Boucher said America is doing everything it can to ensure a fair election.]