8 September 2010
Miranshah, Pakistan (AFP) -
Three separate US drone strikes in
Pakistan's northwestern tribal district killed at least 18 militants
on Wednesday, security officials said.
Washington has branded the rugged area on the Afghan border -- part of which has been hit by Pakistan's catastrophic flooding -- a global headquarters of Al-Qaeda and the most dangerous place on Earth.
Officials in Washington say the drone strikes are a vital tool needed to protect the 150,000 foreign troops in Afghanistan and have killed a number of high-value targets including Pakistani Taliban chief Baitullah Mehsud.
The third strike Wednesday again hit North Waziristan, the same tribal district targeted in the previous two drone attacks and a renowned hub for Taliban and Al-Qaeda-linked militants.
Dandey Darpakhel, a village five kilometres (three miles) from Miranshah, the main town in North Waziristan, was targeted twice and missiles destroyed two different compounds, killing 14 rebels.
In the other attack, a drone fired two missiles which struck a vehicle, killing four militants in Amboor Shaga village of Datta Khel town, 40 kilometres from Miranshah.
All three strikes were confirmed by intelligence officials in Miranshah, who also confirmed the death toll.
US forces have been waging a drone war against Taliban and Al-Qaeda-linked commanders in the northwestern tribal belt, where militants have carved out havens in mountains outside direct government control.
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 1,040 people have been killed in more than 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.
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.
Under US pressure to crack down on Islamist havens along the Afghan border, Pakistan has in the past year significantly increased operations against militants in the area.
More than 3,700 people have been killed in the last three years in
a series of suicide attacks and bomb explosions across Pakistan, many
of them carried out by the Taliban and other Al-Qaeda-linked Islamist