At least three suspected militants were killed yesterday in Pakistan’s tribal area, thought to have been by a US missile aimed at Taliban and al-Qaeda rebels, officials said.
“It was a drone attack,” local administration official Shahab Ali Shah told reporters, suggesting it was the latest in a series of strikes by pilotless US aircraft in the restive northwest region.
The official said two missiles hit a house in Gangi Khel town in South Waziristan district along the Afghan border.
Another official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the attack targeted a militant hideout, killing three suspected rebels.
But a security official said seven militants had died.
“Seven militants were killed in the twin strike,” the security official said, adding that there was no immediate report of any high-value targets.
Another security official said that five others were wounded.
Residents said the attack flattened the compound, while a vehicle parked nearby was also destroyed.
The semi-autonomous South Waziristan tribal area is a stronghold of Pakistan’s top Taliban commander, Baitullah Mehsud, who recently threatened attacks across the country and in the US to avenge missile strikes.
Three suspected militants were killed in a similar attack in the area earlier this month.
Yesterday’s attack was the fourth suspected US strike this month and follows the unveiling of a strategy by US President Barack Obama to defeat extremists in South Asia that puts Pakistan at the heart of the fight against al-Qaeda.
Like the militants, the Pakistan government is also deeply opposed to the attacks by the aircraft.
Around 370 people and suspected militants have died in some 38 such attacks since August. Pakistan says the strikes violate its territorial sovereignty and deepen resentment among Pakistanis.
Pakistan has paid dearly for its alliance with the US in its “war on terror”, with militant attacks killing more than 1,700 people since July 2007.
After talks with US military commander Admiral Mike Mullen and diplomatic envoy Richard Holbrooke last week, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said there were stark differences of opinion on the attacks.
“We did talk about drones and let me be very frank, there’s a gap,” he said. “We can only work together if we respect each other and we trust each other. There is no other way. Nothing else will work.”
The US military does not, as a rule, confirm drone attacks, but its armed forces and CIA operating in neighboring Afghanistan are the only forces that deploy drones in the region.