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Page last updated at 11:59 GMT, Wednesday, 1 April 2009 12:59 UK

Many killed in 'US drone attack'

US drone
Pakistan is critical of the US drone attacks

A missile fired by a suspected US drone has killed at least 14 people in Pakistan, close to the Afghan border, eyewitnesses say.

The missile hit a house in Orakzai tribal area. Residents and local journalists said the house had been converted into a Taleban camp.

The Taleban have cordoned off the entire area, they said.

Last week, US President Barack Obama said his government would consult Pakistan on drone attacks.

'Retaliation'

Officials said the targets were Taleban and al-Qaeda members who have found safe havens in tribal areas near the Afghan border.

Residents in the area say that the missile struck a house being used by the Taleban which was completely destroyed.

US DRONE STRIKES
Map

Approx. 300 people killed in at least 30 drone strikes since Aug 2008
Drone strikes target tribal regions, mostly Waziristan
Hellfire missiles fired from unmanned Predator drones is main method

The BBC's Syed Shoaib Hasan in Islamabad says that the strike is the first drone attack in Orakzai and is another sign that the US is expanding the zones of attack.

Residents said that Taleban militants immediately cordoned off the area and took away the bodies of the dead.

There have been more than 35 US strikes since August - killing about 340 people - and most have landed in the North and South Waziristan tribal regions. South Waziristan is the stronghold of Pakistani Taleban leader Baitullah Mehsud.

On Tuesday, Mehsud claimed responsibility for Monday's deadly attack on a police academy in Lahore saying it was in retaliation against US drone attacks.

He said the attacks would continue "until the Pakistan government stops supporting the Americans".

Our correspondent says that the Orakzai tribal region is the base for Zulfiqar Mehsud, Baitullah Mehsud's main deputy.

He uses the area to carry out operations in the nearby Khyber tribal region.

His militants are primarily responsible for disrupting and destroying Nato convoys carrying supplies into Afghanistan through the Khyber pass.

Pakistan has been publicly critical of drone attacks, arguing that they kill civilians and fuel support for militants like the Mehsuds.

The latest strike comes as Afghanistan's interior ministry said that at least 10 people were killed just across the border in a suicide attack on the headquarters of the provincial council in Kandahar.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has met his Pakistani counterpart, Asif Ali Zardari, to discuss ways to combat Islamic extremists in both countries in talks hosted by the Turkish President, Abdullah Gul, in Ankara on Wednesday.

Afghan officials have previously said that insurgent attacks inside Afghanistan are planned in Pakistan.

Relations have improved since President Zardari came to power but Turkey's role as a broker could further improve ties.

The US military routinely does not confirm drone attacks but the armed forces and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) operating in Afghanistan are believed to be the only forces capable of deploying drones in the region.



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