South Asia

Pakistan drone attack 'kills 20 militants'

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Twenty suspected militants have died in a US drone strike in north-western Pakistan, Pakistani officials say.

They say two missiles struck a vehicle in the Bangi Dara area of North Waziristan, killing four foreign militants early on Tuesday.

Eleven militants are said to have died when a drone fired four missiles at a home nearby. It is not clear where the other five died.

Drone casualties are hard to verify as the region is closed to journalists.

The names of the dead have not been revealed, but security officials said they were militants suspected of carrying out attacks in Afghanistan and then fleeing across the ill-controlled border to hide.

Correspondents say that the attack is one of the deadliest drone strikes in Pakistan in recent months.

A haven for members of the Taliban and al-Qaeda, the North Waziristan area has been repeatedly targeted by US drones.

Correspondents say it is the eighth missile attack in north-western Pakistan this month.

There have been over 100 such attacks throughout 2010, nearly all of which have hit North Waziristan, where Muslim extremists are believed to run a virtual mini-state outside the Pakistani government's control.

US officials have been continuously encouraging Pakistan's military to launch an offensive in North Wazirstan.

But Islamabad has resisted, saying it is already engaged against Islamist extremists elsewhere in the north-west.

Pakistan publicly criticises drone attacks, saying they fuel support for militants. But observers say officials privately condone the strikes.

The US military and the CIA do not routinely confirm that they have launched drone operations, but analysts say only American forces have deployed such aircraft in the region.

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