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Page last updated at 17:11 GMT, Wednesday, 8 July 2009 18:11 UK

Drones 'kill dozens' in Pakistan

US drone
Pakistan has been publicly critical of US drone attacks

Up to 50 suspected militants have been killed in two US attacks in north-west Pakistan, local officials told the BBC.

In the first attack, suspected US drones attacked a Taliban forest camp in South Waziristan, near the Afghan border, killing at least 10 militants.

Hours later, officials said about 40 militants died when five missiles hit a vehicle convoy in the same region.

It has been one of the Taliban's deadliest days since the drone campaign began last August.

Separately, a top Taliban commander, Maulana Fazlullah, was reported to have been wounded during the Pakistani military's ongoing offensive in the Swat Valley.

US DRONE ATTACKS
Protest in Lahore on 3 July 2009 against reported US drone strikes
Since August 2008, nearly 50 strikes have killed at least 450
In the deadliest day yet, 24 June 2009, more than 60 people died
Drone strikes target tribal regions, mostly Waziristan
Hellfire missiles fired from Predator craft is main method

Wednesday's suspected drone strikes were targeting militants in a stronghold of Pakistan's top Taliban commander, Baitullah Mehsud.

The Pakistani army is now bracing itself for a major offensive against him.

In the first of Wednesday's attacks, missiles hit the thickly-forested and mountainous Karwan Manza area, some 10km (six miles) south-east of Ladha.

Officials say six missiles were fired, completely destroying a Taliban hideout, a day after another camp was hit in a similar attack nearby.

In the second attack, five missiles were fired at vehicles carrying militants on the main road between Ladha and another town, Sararogha, according to local officials.

They said all the vehicles were destroyed and the dead were mostly Taliban militants, as well as members of banned militant organisations from Pakistan's Punjab province.

The BBC's Syed Shoaib Hasan in Islamabad says the militants targeted in the double strike were loyal to Baitullah Mehsud.

US officials believe he is providing both the Taliban and al-Qaeda with a refuge in the region. They are offering a reward of $5m (£3m) for his capture.

'Insecurity'

Our correspondent says the increased number of drone attacks has caused a great deal of insecurity among the Pakistan Taliban commander's fighters.

Meanwhile, there was confusion over the fate of Maulana Fazlullah - a radical cleric and a commander of the Pakistani Taliban in the Swat Valley - who is said to have been wounded in an air strike on Monday.

Baitullah Mehsud

Army spokesman, Maj Gen Athar Abbas, told reporters: "We have credible information Maulana Fazlullah has been injured... But it is not possible to confirm whether he is alive or not."

Analysts describe him as the "architect" of the two-year uprising aimed at enforcing Sharia law in the Swat Valley, where government troops have been engaged in a bitter campaign to oust Islamist fighters for the last two months.

The Pakistan Taliban has claimed responsibility for numerous suicide bombings and other attacks which have killed scores inside the country.

There have been dozens of suspected US pilotless air strikes since last August, mostly in the tribal North and South Waziristan regions, killing hundreds of militants and civilians.

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 fuel support for the militants.

The US military does not routinely confirm such strikes but the armed forces and the CIA in Afghanistan are believed to be the only elements 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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