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US drone attack kills six militants in Pakistan

US drone attack death toll rises to 20 in Pakistan
Peshawar, Pakistan (AFP) April 22, 2011 - The toll from a drone attack Friday on a building used by militants in troubled northwest Pakistan has risen to at least 20 dead, a military official in Peshawar told AFP.

"The death toll from the drone attack is around 20. The target was a militant guesthouse," the official said.

The missile strike hit at 4:30 am (2030 GMT Thursday) in Spinwam, 40 kilometres (25 miles) northeast of Miranshah, the main town in North Waziristan tribal district, officials said.

The death toll was confirmed by local and security officials in Miranshah.

by Staff Writers
Miranshah, Pakistan (AFP) April 22, 2011
At least six militants were killed early Friday in a US drone attack on a compound in a Pakistani tribal town near the Afghan border, officials told AFP.

It was the first missile strike to hit the North Waziristan tribal district since March 17 when a drone attack killed 39 people, including many civilians, causing a diplomatic furore over the unpopular US campaign.

"US drones fired five missiles on a compound in Spinwam, 40 kilometres (25 miles) northeast of Miranshah," said a local intelligence official. Miranshah is the main town in North Waziristan tribal district.

"Several people were also wounded in the attack, which took place at around 4:30 am (2030 GMT)," he added.

A security official in Peshawar said separately that the drones fired five missiles at a house, killing six people.

Last month's drone attack in the same area led civilian and military leaders to publicly protest the civilian casualties, although the drone campaign is believed to operate with the tacit consent of the government.

Islamabad offered compensation to the families of the 39 victims and called the US ambassador to the foreign ministry to formally protest the incident.

The strikes have inflamed anti-US feeling, which is already running high after the January killing of two Pakistani men in a busy Lahore street by a US embassy official later revealed to be working for the CIA.

Missile attacks doubled last year, with more than 100 drone strikes killing over 670 people in 2010 compared with 45 strikes that killed 420 in 2009, according to an AFP tally.

American drones resumed attacks in Pakistan on April 13 for the first time in nearly a month, targeting fighters from the Al-Qaeda-linked Haqqani network in South Waziristan near the Afghan border.

That strike came one day after a Washington meeting between Lieutenant General Ahmad Shuja Pasha, the chief of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence agency, and Leon Panetta, director of the CIA, which runs the drone war.

On Thursday army chief General Kayani issued a statement that said drones "not only undermine our national effort against terrorism but also turn public support against our efforts".

Most have been concentrated in North Waziristan, the most notorious Afghan Taliban and Al-Qaeda bastion in Pakistan, where the United States wants the Pakistan military to launch a ground offensive as soon as possible.

Pakistan says its troops are too overstretched to launch such an assault.

Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, on a trip to Islamabad this week accused Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency of having ties with the Afghan Taliban in Pakistan's northwest tribal belt.

The White House also criticised Pakistan's efforts to defeat the Taliban operating on the border in a report this month that was rejected by Islamabad.

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