South Asia

'Five militants die' in new Pakistan drone attack

US Predator drone flies over Kandahar Air Field, southern Afghanistan, file image
Image caption Drones have launched 27 missile attacks since early September

At least five suspected militants have been killed in a drone strike in north-west Pakistan, local officials say.

The US has stepped up drone attacks in the last month, apparently to disrupt an al-Qaeda plot to launch commando-style raids on European cities.

Five German nationals were killed in a drone strike earlier this week in an attack linked to the European threat.

EU officials have renewed warnings that the threat from al-Qaeda is real and ongoing.

"Public officials would not terrify the population without anything to back it up," said EU anti-terrorism co-ordinator Gilles de Kerchove, in comments reported by the AFP news agency.

"[The threat] is in the context of a general threat that has not diminished in recent times."

'Don't panic'

In the latest drone strike, local officials said the plane fired two missiles into a militant compound in Miranshah, the main town in the North Waziristan tribal district.

Miranshah residents told AFP that militants had cordoned off the attack site and would not let anyone approach.

Speaking before the latest strike, Pakistan's US envoy Hussein Haqqani told the BBC that the activity in North Waziristan "is connected to the terrorist warnings... about potential strikes in Europe".

Mr Haqqani said Pakistan was working with European and US intelligence agencies to prevent the suspected plans to attack Europe, and that people should not panic.

Security sources say al-Qaeda is planning to launch commando-style attacks on targets in Britain, France and Germany.

The US and other countries have issued travel alerts in recent days citing the increased threat from terrorism.

Analysts have linked the alleged European plot with the disappearance of several Muslim radicals from the German city of Hamburg last year.

The men are believed to have been heading to North Waziristan, and it is thought that one of them was captured and gave the US authorities information on the European plot.

The US rarely admits it carries out drone attacks, but analysts say it is the only force with the capability to run such a programme.

It has now carried out 27 drone strikes in the area since early September.

Meanwhile, a security source has told the BBC's Newsnight programme that a British national named Abdul Jabbar, who was killed in a drone strike last month, was being groomed to head an al-Qaeda offshoot in the UK.

His group was tasked with preparing the attacks in Europe, according to the source.

British government officials have declined to comment on the Newsnight report.

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