US drone strike kills 6 militants in Pakistan

The target of the drone attack was a compound in the outskirts of Miranshah.

Miranshah: A US drone attack on Thursday killed six militants in Pakistan`s rebel-infested northwestern tribal belt, security officials said -- the fourth strike in 24 hours.

The latest strike hit North Waziristan, the same tribal district targeted in three other drone attacks since Wednesday and a renowned hub for Taliban and al Qaeda-linked militants.

The target of the fourth drone attack was a compound in the outskirts of Miranshah, the main town in North Waziristan.

A total of 24 militants were killed in the four strikes.

"Two US drones fired three missiles. We have reports that six militants were killed," a security official based in Peshawar said.

Residents in Miranshah said they heard three huge explosions and later the villagers started announcements from local mosques asking for help.

"Militants have dug out six dead bodies. Five people were critically wounded," a local resident said, requesting anonymity.

"They are still digging the rubble, two nearby houses were also damaged," he added.

Intelligence officials said they were trying to find out the nationalities of the militants killed, but they had no reports about the presence of any high-value target.

"An informer told us there were some Afghan Taliban among the dead but we are investigating," one intelligence official in Miranshah said.

Two intelligence officials in Miranshah also confirmed the attack and the death toll.

Washington has branded the rugged area on the Afghan border -- part of which has been hit by Pakistan`s catastrophic flooding -- a global headquarters of al Qaeda and the most dangerous place on Earth.

US forces have been waging a drone war against Taliban and al Qaeda-linked commanders in the northwestern tribal belt, where militants have carved out havens in mountains outside direct government control.

Officials in Washington say the drone strikes are a vital tool needed to protect foreign troops in Afghanistan and have killed a number of high-value targets including Pakistani Taliban chief Baitullah Mehsud.

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.

More than 1,040 people have been killed in over 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.

Al Qaeda announced in June that its number three leader and Osama bin Laden`s one-time treasurer Mustafa Abu al-Yazid had been killed in what security officials said appeared to be a drone strike in North Waziristan.

Under US pressure to crack down on Islamist havens along the Afghan border, Pakistan has in the past year significantly increased operations against militants in the area.

More than 3,700 people have been killed in the past three years in a series of suicide attacks and bomb explosions across Pakistan, many of them carried out by the Taliban and other al Qaeda-linked Islamist extremists.

Bureau Report

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