(AFP) – Dec 26, 2009
MIRANSHAH, Pakistan — At least five people were killed Saturday when missiles from an unmanned US aircraft hit a suspected militant compound in Pakistan's northwest tribal belt, security officials said.
The missiles struck a house in Saidgi village of North Waziristan tribal district, which borders Afghanistan, officials said.
"Two missiles hit a house, five militants were killed," an intelligence official told AFP.
Another security official confirmed the drone attack and the toll, adding that the house belonged to a local tribesman named Asmatullah, who, he said, had links with Taliban militants.
The two officials refused to be named because of the sensitivity of US drone attacks in Pakistan, which have inflamed anti-American sentiment.
Neither official's statements could be confirmed independently.
Residents said that tribesmen had cordoned off the compound surrounding the house and were searching the rubble.
Saturday's drone strike is at least the third since December 17 in North Waziristan, where Islamabad is under growing US pressure to dismantle Islamist extremist networks along the lawless and porous border with Afghanistan.
North Waziristan rife with Taliban militants, Al-Qaeda fighters and members of the Haqqani network, a powerful group known for staging attacks on foreign troops in Afghanistan.
North Waziristan neighbours South Waziristan, where Pakistan has been focusing its most ambitious offensive yet against homegrown Taliban militants, sending about 30,000 troops into the region on October 17.
The military has launched multiple offensives this year against the Taliban and other militants across the semi-autonomous tribal belt, but so far North Waziristan has seen only limited airstrikes and no major ground offensive.
The region has, however, seen a rise in suspected US drone strikes since US President Barack Obama took office and put Pakistan on the frontline of the war on Al-Qaeda.
US media have reported that the White House authorised the CIA to expand the use of drones in Pakistan to strike suspected Taliban and Al-Qaeda members.
Since August 2008, at least 69 such strikes, including Saturday's, have killed about 647 people. It is difficult to confirm the identity of those killed while the US military does not as a rule confirm individual bombings.
The Obama administration has been putting increased pressure on Islamabad not only to target the Pakistani Taliban staging attacks inside the country, but to stamp out militant groups who cross the porous border into Afghanistan.
Obama is deploying an extra 30,000 troops to try to turn the tide in the eight-year war against a Taliban-led insurgency in Afghanistan, and says the new plan hinges on Pakistan's own efforts against extremists.
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