Latest update: 15/07/2010
US drone attack kills militants and destroys compound in North Waziristan
A compound used by Islamist insurgents was destroyed and at least 10 militants were killed in a US drone attack on Thursday in the Taliban stronghold of North Waziristan in Pakistan’s tribal belt, officials said.
By NEWS WIRES (text)
AFP - US missiles destroyed a compound used by Islamist fighters in Pakistan's tribal belt on Thursday, killing at least 10 militants in the first such attack for two weeks, officials said.
A US drone fired at least two missiles into the compound in the village of Sheerani Mada Khel in the district of North Waziristan, a Taliban and Al-Qaeda-linked stronghold heavily targeted in a covert US drone war this year.
"At least 10 militants were killed," a senior security official told AFP on condition of anonymity. Another security official said up to 14 militants were killed when three missiles slammed into the compound.
The area, 40 kilometres (25 miles) from Miranshah, the main town in North Waziristan, is a stronghold of Pakistani warlord Hafiz Gul Bahadur.
He is reputed to control up to 2,000 fighters in the region who stage attacks over the border against foreign forces stationed in Afghanistan.
It was not immediately clear whether there were any high-value targets among the dead. Neither could officials confirm their nationalities.
The missiles were fired at around 6:30 pm (1330 GMT) and militants quickly surrounded the site, barring access to local residents, officials said.
US forces have been waging a covert drone war against Taliban and Al-Qaeda-linked commanders in Pakistan's northwest tribal belt, where militants have carved out havens in mountains outside direct government control.
Washington has branded the rugged tribal area on the Afghan border a global headquarters of Al-Qaeda and the most dangerous place on earth.
The US 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 pilotless drones in the region.
Thursday's strike was the first drone attack in Pakistan's tribal belt since six militants were killed in South Waziristan on June 29.
Around 960 people have been killed in more than 100 drone strikes in Pakistan since August 2008, including a number of senior militants. However the attacks fuel anti-American sentiment in the conservative Muslim country.
Waziristan came under renewed scrutiny when Faisal Shahzad, the Pakistani-American charged over an attempted bombing in New York on May 1, allegedly told US interrogators he went there for bomb training.
The United States has been increasing pressure on Pakistan to crack down on Islamist havens along the Afghan border.
Pakistani commanders have not ruled out an offensive in North Waziristan, but argue that gains in South Waziristan and the northwestern district of Swat need to be consolidated to prevent their troops from being stretched too thin.