July 17, 2009 / 12:34 PM / 10 years ago

Suspected U.S. drone kills five militants in Pakistan

Haji Mujtaba

MIRANSHAH, Pakistan (Reuters) - A missile believed to have been fired by a U.S. drone killed five militants on Friday in a Pakistani tribal region known as a haven for Taliban and al Qaeda fighters, intelligence officials said.

The missile struck a house in Razmak, about 30 km (18 miles) south of Miranshah, the main town of North Waziristan.

“Five militants have been killed and four wounded in the missile attack on a house,” an intelligence official said.

The United States intensified drone attacks on tribal areas bordering Afghanistan last year and there has been no let-up since the administration led by President Barack Obama took over in January, despite complaints from the Pakistani government.

Including Friday’s attack, the United States has carried out about 49 drone air strikes since the beginning of last year, most since September, killing about 470 people, including many foreign militants, according to a tally of reports from Pakistani intelligence agencies and district government officials.

Most of the recent attacks have hit targets in the strongholds of Pakistani Taliban commander, Baitullah Mehsud, in the neighbouring South Waziristan region.

The Pakistani military has also been carrying out air strikes in the region, softening up targets ahead of a full-scale offensive it is expected to launch sometime soon.

Authorities are wrapping up a campaign against Taliban militants in the Swat valley, northwest of Islamabad, launched over two months ago after militant advances prompted concerns over the country’s safety and that of its nuclear weapons.

Militants have retaliated with attacks on Pakistani security forces and on trucks carrying NATO food and fuel supplies meant for Western forces fighting al Qaeda and Taliban militants across the border in Afghanistan.

On Friday, militants destroyed two such fuel tankers in separate roadside bomb attacks in the Khyber tribal region, one of the two land routes for supplies going to Afghanistan, government officials said.

Civilian casualties caused by the missile-carrying, pilotless drones have infuriated many Pakistanis and made it harder for the government to cooperate with the United States.

Pakistan says publicly the U.S. drone attacks violate its sovereignty, but U.S. officials say Islamabad has given its approval.

Additional reporting by Alamgir Bitani

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