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Sunday, May 9, 2010

US drone strikes kill 10 in Pakistan

Associated Press story May 9


DERA ISMAIL KHAN, Pakistan — Suspected U.S. missiles struck a house in Taliban-dominated northwestern Pakistan on Sunday, killing 10 people in the latest American strike targeting militant leaders, intelligence officials said.

The strikes were in North Waziristan, a tribal region that has long been a haven for Taliban- and al-Qaida-linked militant networks battling American and NATO forces across the border in Afghanistan. The suspect in the recent failed car bombing in New York's Times Square has claimed he trained in a militant camp somewhere in Waziristan.

Two Pakistani intelligence officials said the two missiles hit the house of local tribesman Awal Gul in Enzer Kasa village of the Datta Khel area.

Ten people were killed, including an unknown number of militants who were staying at the home, the officials said. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to reporters.

It was not immediately clear whether Gul had any ties to militant groups.

The U.S. has used missiles to target militant hide-outs in North Waziristan dozens of times in recent months. Pakistan, a key U.S. ally, officially protests the strikes on its territory as violations of its sovereignty, but it is believed to secretly aid them. The U.S. rarely discusses the unmanned-drone-fired strikes, which are part of a covert CIA program.

In recent months, North Waziristan has become a new haven for Pakistani Taliban leaders who have fled a Pakistani army offensive in their previous stronghold, neighboring South Waziristan.

The Pakistani Taliban, while linked to the Afghan Taliban and al-Qaida, have primarily directed their attacks at targets inside Pakistan, making them a priority for the army.

The Pakistani army has held off on waging an offensive against other militant networks that are based in North Waziristan, despite U.S. pressure, because it does not want to antagonize powerful insurgent groups there that have so far attacked only targets in Afghanistan, not Pakistani cities.

On Sunday morning, Pakistani army helicopters pounded insurgent hide-outs in the Shana Garhi area of the Orakzai tribal region, killing at least eight militants, local official Jahanzeb Khan said.

Pakistan security forces are carrying out an operation against insurgents who escaped the military offensive in South Waziristan. Some have taken refuge in the Orakzai tribal region, which lies next to North Waziristan, and other neighboring tribal areas.

Associated Press writer Hussain Afzal in Peshawar contributed to this report.

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