28 August 2009
A US drone strike Saturday killed four militants in Pakistan's northwestern tribal belt near the Afghan border, security officials said.
The strike hit Shahidano village in the violence-wracked Kurram tribal district, 100 kilometres (62 miles) southwest of Peshawar.
"Four militants have been killed in this drone attack," a security official in Peshawar told AFP by telephone.
Another security official in Peshawar said the US drone fired four missiles, hitting two vehicles near a house.
"All those killed were militants of Tehreek-e-Taliban," the official said.
US drones have mostly targeted North and South Waziristan tribal districts, known hubs for Taliban and Al-Qaeda linked militants.
Kurram is the neighbouring tribal district of Orakzai, the home town of Hakimullah Mehsud, Pakistan's Taliban chief who escaped a US missile attack on January 14 in North Waziristan.
Officials said militants were crossing in two vehicles from Orakzai to Kurram but were hit when they stopped in front of a house.
Both the vehicles were destroyed in the attack, officials said.
Kurram tribal district has for three years been a flashpoint for violence between Shiite and Sunni communities.
US forces have been waging a drone war against Taliban and Al-Qaeda-linked commanders in Pakistan's northwestern tribal belt, where militants have carved out havens in mountains outside direct government control.
Washington has branded the rugged tribal area on the Afghan border -- part of which has now been hit by Pakistan's catastrophic flooding -- a global headquarters of Al-Qaeda and the most dangerous place on Earth.
The US military does not as a rule confirm drone attacks, but its armed forces and the Central Intelligence Agency operating in Afghanistan are the only forces that deploy pilotless drones in the region.
More than 1,000 people have been killed in over 100 drone strikes in Pakistan since August 2008, including a number of senior militants. However, the attacks fuel anti-American sentiment in the conservative Muslim country.
The United States has been increasing pressure on Pakistan to crack down on Islamist havens along the border.
Pakistani commanders have not ruled out an offensive in North Waziristan, but argue that gains in South Waziristan and the northwestern district of Swat need to be consolidated to prevent their troops from becoming overstretched.
Waziristan came under renewed scrutiny when Faisal Shahzad, a Pakistani-American charged over an attempted bombing in New York on May 1, allegedly told US interrogators he went to the region for terrorist training.
Al-Qaeda announced in June that its
number three leader and Osama bin Laden's one-time treasurer Mustafa
Abu al-Yazid had been killed in what security officials said appeared
to be a drone strike in North Waziristan.