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Page last updated at 09:07 GMT, Tuesday, 7 July 2009 10:07 UK

'US strike' on Pakistan militants

US drone
Pakistan is critical of the US drone attacks

At least 12 militants have been killed in a strike by a suspected US drone in north-west Pakistan, intelligence officials and residents say.

The missile attack targeted a stronghold of Pakistan's top Taliban commander, Baitullah Mehsud, in South Waziristan, near the Afghan border.

The missiles flattened a compound in the Zangarha area, officials said.

There have been dozens of such strikes since last August, killing hundreds of militants and civilians.

Most of the strikes have taken place in the tribal regions of North and South Waziristan.

Local officials told the BBC Urdu service's Dilawar Khan that a suspected US drone had fired two missiles at a militant compound in the Zangarha area, 15km (9 miles) north-east of the town of Ladha.

Witnesses told the BBC that many militants loyal to Baitullah Mehsud were present at the time of the attack.

Residents said militants were digging through the debris to recover bodies, but were also avoiding gathering in large numbers on the road to Zangarha for fear of another attack.

"Our initial reports from agents in the field say at least 12 to 14 Taliban have died in today's American missile attack," the Associated Press news agency quoted an official as saying.

The strikes come at a time when the Pakistani government is engaged in operations against the Taliban commander in South Waziristan.

Criticism

Last month, a suspected drone struck twice within hours killing more than 60 people - most of them militants who had gathered for the funeral of those killed in the first strike.

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

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

In March, US President Barack Obama said his government would consult Pakistan on drone attacks.



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