A US drone attack targeting a militant compound killed at least 10 people in a troubled Pakistani tribal district along the Afghan border early yesterday, security officials said.
The Pakistani officials said two missiles hit and destroyed the compound in Shawal area, about 70km west of Miranshah, the main town in North Waziristan.
Waziristan is a militant stronghold in Pakistan’s semi-autonomous northwestern tribal belt. Washington considers it the main hub for Taliban and al-Qaeda to plot attacks on the West and in Afghanistan.
“The death toll in the US drone strike has risen to 10. The drone fired two missiles at the compound,” a security official in the northwestern city of Peshawar said.
Two security officials in Miranshah confirmed the strike and death toll, adding that the mud compound which was being used as a training center by militants had been completely destroyed.
Officials had earlier put the death toll at six. The identity of those killed in the strike was not yet known and officials said they were trying to collect more information from the far-flung mountainous area.
Yesterday’s attack was the second strike since Pakistan’s parliament in March approved new guidelines on relations with the US, which included a call for an end to drone attacks on Pakistani territory.
Pakistan says the drone strikes are counter productive and undermine government efforts to separate tribes from militants, violate Pakistan’s sovereignty, kill civilians and fuel anti-US sentiment.
Pakistan raised the issue with US Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Marc Grossman when he visited Islamabad last month amid efforts to mend fractured relations.
The uneasy allies are currently taking tentative steps to repair a serious crisis in relations following last year’s covert US raid that killed former al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and US air strikes that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers.
The frequency of the strikes has diminished in recent months, but US officials are believed to consider them too useful to stop them altogether.
US President Barack Obama in January confirmed for the first time that US drones target 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 New America Foundation think tank in Washington says drone strikes have killed between 1,715 and 2,680 people in Pakistan over the past eight years.