Page last updated at 13:08 GMT, Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Drone attack 'kills four' in north-west Pakistan


Missiles fired by a suspected US drone aircraft have killed at least four militants in north-west Pakistan, security officials say.

They said that the attack targeted a militant compound in the North Waziristan tribal area.

Meanwhile, locals say two tribesmen accused of spying for the US have been killed by the Taliban in the same area.

North and South Waziristan are known sanctuaries for al-Qaeda and Taliban militants and are often hit by drones.

There have been about more than a dozen such strikes this year alone.

Locals say the attacks have destroyed many training camps and compounds. They have also killed dozens of local and foreign militants, officials say.

Elsewhere in the troubled north-west, a Pakistani Hindu has been kidnapped in Khyber district. His abductors have demanded 10 million rupees ($117,619) for his release.

Earlier this week a Pakistani Sikh who had been kidnapped was beheaded in the same area.

Bodies dumped

Tribesmen told the BBC that one of the bodies found in North Waziristan on Wednesday - that of tribal leader Malik Salah Khan - had a "warning letter" attached to it.

"It said that whoever spied for America would meet the same fate," a tribesman said.

US drone
US drone attacks are being stepped up along the Afghan-Pakistan border

Officials say one body was found in the Datakhel area of North Waziristan, while the other was found near Mir Ali, about 20km (12 miles) from the main town of Miranshah.

They said both men - who were kidnapped several days ago by armed militants - had been shot several times in the head and their bodies dumped in the open.

The BBC's Syed Shoaib Hasan in Islamabad says that such killings have become commonplace in the region since drone attacks increased in frequency a few weeks ago.

The militants usually kidnap local tribesmen after a drone strike on charges of spying. Their bodies are later found riddled with bullets or decapitated.

Publicly criticised

The US has stepped up drone attacks in north-west Pakistan since a suicide bomber killed seven CIA agents across the border in Afghanistan last month.

More than 700 people have died in nearly 80 drone strikes since August 2008.

A surge in such strikes has been ordered by US President Barack Obama.

Pakistan has publicly criticised drone attacks, saying they fuel support for militants, but observers say the authorities privately condone the strikes.

The American military does not routinely confirm drone operations, but analysts say the US is the only force capable of deploying such aircraft in the region.

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