Drone strike in Pakistan kills five suspected militants

Predator drone Image copyright Other
Image caption Drone attacks are deeply resented by many Pakistanis

A US drone strike targeting a militant base has killed five insurgents in a Pakistani tribal region near the Afghan border, security officials say.

The attack in North Waziristan is the first since cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan staged a rally last weekend against drones.

The area of the latest attack is a known Taliban and al-Qaeda stronghold.

The attacks, by unmanned US aircraft, are deeply unpopular in Pakistan, which says they violate its sovereignty.

However the government of Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari has done nothing to stop them and many Pakistanis believe this amounts to tacit consent.

US President Barack Obama has insisted that the drone strategy is "kept on a very tight leash" and that without the attacks, the US would have had to resort to "more intrusive military action".

"Several US drones flew into the area before dawn and fired four missiles on a compound, killing five militants," a security official told the AFP news agency after the strike in Hurmuz area, east of Miranshah, the capital of North Waziristan.

Another security official in the north-western city of Peshawar confirmed the attack and casualties - but because strict restrictions are in place as to who travels to the region, there is no way of getting independent confirmation of the number of people killed or who exactly they were.

A thousands-strong motorcade rally against drone strikes - led by Mr Khan - was stopped at the weekend from entering the restive tribal regions.

After negotiations near the frontier, Mr Khan turned back and decided to hold a rally in the nearby town of Tank.

But he said he still intended to reached his intended final destination, in South Waziristan.

The authorities barred him from the region, citing security concerns.

Like many Pakistanis, he argues that attacks from unmanned aircraft kill large numbers of civilians and foster support for militants.

US officials insist strikes by the unmanned aircraft rarely claim civilian casualties and are an effective weapon against the Taliban and al-Qaeda.

Before the march, Mr Khan told the BBC that he would authorise the shooting down of US drones over his country if he became its head of government because they violated Pakistan's sovereignty.

More on this story