PESHAWAR, Pakistan — US drone strikes targeting a militant compound in Pakistan's northwestern tribal area Sunday killed at least five insurgents, including a commander, security officials said.
Four missiles hit a house belonging to the commander, who supported the Taliban in Afghanistan, near Wana -- the main town in the South Waziristan tribal district near the Afghan border -- the officials said.
"At least five militants have died. The house has been badly destroyed," a security official told AFP, on condition of anonymity.
Two other security officials confirmed the strikes in Wacha Dana town, 10 kilometres (six miles) west of Wana.
One intelligence officer put the death toll at six.
The dead included militant commander Malang Jan, an associate of warlord Maulvi Nazir who sends fighters to Afghanistan to support the Taliban, a security official told AFP.
The attacks came when some people were leaving Jan's house after conveying their condolences over the death of his younger brother in an earlier drone strike on Saturday, he said.
The unmanned aircraft fired missiles when Malang Jan came out of the house to see off his friends. "The missiles killed Jan and also destroyed the car of his guests," he added.
Sunday's attack comes amid an upsurge in drone strikes in Pakistan since a NATO conference on Afghanistan in Chicago last month.
Washington considers Pakistan's semi-autonomous northwestern tribal belt the main hub of Taliban and Al-Qaeda militants plotting attacks on the West and in Afghanistan.
Pakistani-US relations went into freefall last year when a CIA contractor shot dead two Pakistanis, an American raid killed Al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden, and by US air strikes in November that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers.
After the air strikes, Pakistan shut its Afghan border to NATO supplies and ordered US staff out of an air base reportedly used as a hub for drones.
Seven US drone strikes have been reported since May's Chicago summit, which failed to secure a deal on resuming the supply lines.
In March, Pakistan's parliament agreed to reset US relations on condition that Washington apologise for the troops' deaths and end drone attacks on its soil.
Pakistan has been incensed by Washington's refusal to apologise for the November air strikes and US officials have so far rejected Pakistani proposals to charge several thousand dollars for each alliance truck crossing the border.
Islamabad, which is understood to have given its tacit approval for attacks on Al-Qaeda and Taliban targets in the past, has become increasingly vocal in its opposition to the perceived violation of national sovereignty.
Despite Pakistani criticism US officials are believed to consider the drone attacks too useful to stop them altogether. They have argued that the strikes are a valuable weapon in the war against Islamist militants.
According to an AFP tally, 45 US missile strikes were reported in Pakistan's tribal belt in 2009, the year US President Barack Obama took office, 101 in 2010 and 64 in 2011.
The New America Foundation think-tank in Washington says drone strikes have killed between 1,715 and 2,680 people in Pakistan in the past eight years.
Copyright © 2013 AFP. All rights reserved. More »