A US drone strike destroyed a militant compound yesterday, killing at least five fighters in Pakistan’s northwest tribal badlands near the Afghan border, security officials said.
“Two missiles were fired by a US drone on a compound used by militants in Spalga town near Miranshah and five militants have been killed,” a Pakistani security official said on condition of anonymity.
The US says Pakistan’s tribal belt provides sanctuary to Taliban fighting in Afghanistan, al-Qaeda groups plotting attacks on the West and Pakistani Taliban who routinely bomb Pakistan and other foreign fighters.
Yesterday’s attack was confirmed by two other Pakistani security officials in Miranshah, the main town in the North Waziristan region, known as Pakistan’s chief bastion of Taliban and al-Qaeda linked militants.
Security officials said several other militants were wounded, but the exact number was not immediately known.
The latest attack came exactly a week after Pakistani officials said Badar Mansoor, described as the “de facto leader of al-Qaeda in Pakistan” was killed in a drone strike in North Waziristan.
Mansoor was considered one of the US’ main targets in the country, wanted for several bomb attacks on the minority Ahmadi sect that killed nearly 100 people in May 2010 and the chief link between al-Qaeda and the Pakistani Taliban.
Yesterday’s attack came just hours before Pakistan was to host the leaders of Afghanistan and Iran at a tripartite summit in Islamabad designed to discuss counterterrorism cooperation and strengthening regional stability.
US President Barack Obama last month confirmed for the first time that US drones target Taliban and al-Qaeda militants on Pakistani soil, but US officials do not discuss details of the covert program.
According to an AFP tally, 45 US missile strikes were reported in Pakistan’s tribal belt in 2009, the year Obama took office, 101 in 2010 and 64 last year.
The program has dramatically increased as the Obama administration looks to withdraw all foreign combat troops from -Afghanistan by the end of 2014.
US diplomatic cables leaked by WikiLeaks in late 2010 showed that Pakistan’s civilian and military leaders privately supported US drone attacks, despite public condemnation in a country where the US alliance is hugely unpopular.
The New America Foundation think tank in Washington says drone strikes in Pakistan have killed between 1,715 and 2,680 people over the past eight years.
Pakistan is reviewing its entire alliance with the US and has kept its Afghan border closed to NATO supply convoys since a strike in November last year.
It ordered US personnel to leave Shamsi air base in southwestern Pakistan, widely believed to have been a hub for the CIA drone program, and is thought likely to only reopen the Afghan border by exacting taxes on convoys.