U.S. Drone Shot Down in Pakistan

Vigilantes fired on the surveillance drone, bringing it down.

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, Sept. 23, 2008— -- An American drone was shot down over the volatile Pakistani tribal areas today, according to a local resident and a Pakistani intelligence official, though U.S. officials deny losing any aircraft.

If the reports are true, it would be the first time a spy plane has crashed over Pakistan after thousands of flights designed to target senior al Qaeda and Taliban officials.

The resident and intelligence officials tell ABC News that a vigilante force of tribal locals fired on the drone as it flew above Angoor Adda, located in South Waziristan -- a possible hiding place for Osama bin Laden.

In the last few months, the United States has launched almost daily drone flights over Waziristan and other districts along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. The pilotless drones are considered the eyes and ears of the military, one of the most valuable intelligence tools it has in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

If tribal fighters, who are unaffiliated with either the Taliban or al Qaeda, can shoot down a drone, it could present a major challenge for the United States in an area where the Pakistani military has been unable to defeat a growing insurgency.

The tribal vigilante groups -- known as "lashkars" -- are typically anti-Taliban, who terrorize the local population. But after a Sept. 3 ground assault by U.S. forces in the same area where the drone crashed, tribal elders created a group of fighters to target foreign drones and soldiers coming into Pakistan from Afghanistan. And since that time, the Pakistani military has looked the other way when it comes to the fighters' actions.

The local resident, who described the drone as a "white plane flying low," said it first appeared above Angoor Adda at 5 a.m. local time, just as villagers were finishing their Ramadan breakfasts. A drone then appeared over the village again at 5 p.m. At 10:30 p.m., it was brought down, the resident said.

The drones that fly above Pakistan are typically operated by the Central Intelligence Agency. A senior military official denied that one of its drones had crashed, telling ABC News that "I'm 99.9 percent sure it's not military."

An intelligence official also said nothing had happened to any CIA drones flying over Pakistan.

The U.S. has multiple drones in its arsenal, and it is not clear which type the local resident and Pakistani official were saying was brought down.