PESHAWAR, Pakistan (AFP) — US missiles on Friday slammed into the hideout of a Pakistani Taliban commander allied to warlord Baitullah Mehsud in the tribal belt, killing at least six militants, security officials said.
The United States has put Pakistan at the heart of the fight against Al-Qaeda and Thursday flew 4,000 Marines into Afghanistan's Taliban strongholds in a major assault launched as part of a sweeping new war strategy for south Asia.
"Three missiles hit the hideout of Taliban commander Noor Wali," one Pakistani security official told AFP on condition of anonymity as he was not authorised to speak to the media.
Wali is a close ally of Mehsud, who has a five-million-dollar US price on his head and a Pakistani bounty of 615,000 dollars if found dead or alive.
"Seven were killed in Kokat Khel. It is not yet confirmed if the commander is among the dead," a senior security official told AFP. All those killed were Taliban militants, he said.
Wali's compound was hit in the village of Kokat Khel in South Waziristan, which lies on the border with Afghanistan, about 45 kilometres (28 miles) east of Wana -- the main town in the wild, semi-autonomous region.
Asked about reports of two drone attacks in South Waziristan, military spokesman Major General Athar Abbas said he had "only report of one, which was at Kokat Khel" and that officials put the death toll at "about six".
"It was a US drone attack. We have checked -- no Pakistani aircraft was involved in this incident," another Pakistani military official said.
One official had said initially that five people were killed when a missile slammed into a madrassa occasionally used as a training centre by Mehsud's militia in Mantoi, but other officials could only confirm the first attack.
The United States military does not, as a rule, confirm drone attacks, but its armed forces and the Central Intelligence Agency operating in Afghanistan are the only forces that deploy drones in the region.
Washington has branded Pakistan's rugged northwest tribal belt as the most dangerous place in the world for Americans, saying Al-Qaeda and Taliban rebels are plotting attacks on Western targets from militant hideouts there.
Pakistan publicly opposes US strikes, saying they violate its territorial sovereignty and deepen resentment among the populace. Since August 2008, at least 44 such strikes have killed more than 440 people.
Mehsud has been blamed for some of the worst attacks in Pakistan, where about 2,000 people have died in bombings since July 2007.
Death tolls released by Pakistan are impossible to confirm independently because fighting takes place in closed military zones and the army has faced scepticism that more than 1,600 militants have been killed since late April.
During the last 24 hours, the Pakistani military said at least 13 militants and four local tribesmen were killed in the districts of Swat and Dir.
Washington alleges Al-Qaeda and Taliban rebels who fled Afghanistan after the 2001 US-led invasion are holed up in South Waziristan.
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