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US drone strike ‘kills four militants in Pakistan’

MIRANSHAH, Pakistan — A US drone strike in Pakistan’s northwestern tribal belt on Saturday killed four militants, destroying their compound and a vehicle, local security officials said.

Two missiles fired by a US drone hit Ahmad Khel village, some 25 kilometres (15 miles) west of Miranshah, the main town in the North Waziristan region, local security officials said.

“It was a US drone attack, one missile hit a house and another hit a vehicle. We have reports that four militants were killed,” an intelligence official in Miranshah told AFP.

A second intelligence official in the town confirmed the attack and the death toll, while a security official in Peshawar said two drones fired four missiles, hitting a vehicle and killing three militants.

The area is considered a stronghold of Taliban and Al-Qaeda-linked fighters and has seen a dramatic rise in US drone strikes, as intelligence claims emerged last month of a Mumbai-style terror plot to launch commando attacks on European cities.

The leadership of the Haqqani network, which is linked to the Taliban and Al-Qaeda, is also based in North Waziristan.

It has been accused of plotting some of the deadliest attacks on US troops in Afghanistan including a suicide bombing that killed seven CIA operatives at a US base in Khost last December.

Officials in Miranshah and Peshawar said they are trying to find out the identities of those killed and whether there was a so-called ‘high value’ target among the dead.

A covert US drone campaign in Pakistan has stepped up strikes in the tribal belt,

The United States considers Pakistan’s tribal belt an Al-Qaeda headquarters and the most dangerous place on Earth.

More than 220 people have been killed in over 40 strikes since September 3, heightening tensions with Islamabad over reported US criticism of Pakistan’s failure so far to launch a ground offensive in North Waziristan.

The United States does not as a rule confirm drone attacks, but its military and the Central Intelligence Agency operating in Afghanistan are the only forces that deploy the pilotless aircraft in the region.

Officials in Washington say drone strikes are highly effective in the war against Al-Qaeda and its Islamist allies, killing a number of high-value targets, including the Pakistani Taliban’s founding father Baitullah Mehsud.

But the policy is unpopular among the Pakistan public who see military action on Pakistani soil as a breach of national sovereignty.

It has led to reprisals from militant groups who have targeted NATO supply convoys destined for Afghanistan.

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