US drone 'kills nine' in Pakistan's North Waziristan

Map of federally administered tribal areas

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A US drone strike has killed at least nine suspected militants in the volatile tribal areas of north-west Pakistan, say Pakistani officials.

The drone fired missiles at a suspected militant compound in the Shawal area of North Waziristan, close to the Afghan border, officials said.

Drones often target Pakistan's tribal areas, thought to be the hub of Taliban cross-border insurgent activity.

Pakistan said the drone strike was illegal and counterproductive.

Security officials in North Waziristan told the AFP news agency that the compound, which militants were using as a training centre, was completely destroyed.

The US does not normally comment on individual drone operations, which have killed hundreds of people in recent years.

In January, President Barack Obama confirmed for the first time that the covert programme targets militants on Pakistani soil.

Those killed in the drone operations have included al-Qaeda and Taliban leaders, as well as civilians and other militants.

In US officials' first detailed comments on drone strikes, President Obama's counter-terrorism adviser, John Brennan, said last month that the attacks were helping to win the war on the militant network.

But he also conceded that there had been civilian deaths as a result of some strikes.

The frequency of the attacks rose after Mr Obama took office in 2008. More than 100 raids were reported in the area in 2010, and more than 60 took place last year.

Pakistan's Foreign Office on Saturday repeated its assertion that drone attacks were a violation of the country's sovereignty.

The BBC's Aleem Maqbool in Islambad says many analysts believe the drone strikes could only continue if there was tacit support from Pakistan's leaders.

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