A suspected US missile strike killed at least five people on Sunday in a tribal region where Pakistan’s top Taliban commander is based, intelligence officials said, breaking a lull in such attacks and posing a test for growing anti-Taliban sentiment.
The strike came as violence raged elsewhere in the volatile northwest region bordering Afghanistan: a bombing at a market killed eight people.
In a related development, officials said clashes between the Taliban and security forces killed at least 20 militants in a tribal region supposedly cleared of insurgents months ago.
Local media reported that the Taliban claimed responsibility for several recent attacks in Pakistan, including one that killed a moderate cleric, calling them revenge for the army’s offensive in the northwestern Swat Valley.
The attacks seem to have bolstered growing anti-Taliban sentiment in Pakistan, something the US hopes will translate into support for sustained military action against extremists who use Pakistani soil to plot attacks on Western troops in Afghanistan.
The latest US drone strike strike — the first since mid-May — occurred in South Waziristan, hitting three vehicles in an area not far from Makeen, a village considered a stronghold of Pakistani Taliban chief Baitullah Mehsud.
Brown calls Zardari
Amid spate of suicide bombings in Pakistan, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown on Sunday called President Asif Ali Zardari and conveyed his support to Islamabad in the campaign against terrorism and militancy.
During the telephone conversation, the two leaders discussed ways in which Britain could help Pakistan in the war against terror.
31 militants killed
As the army expanded their operations against terrorists in the restive South Waziristan, the military said 31 militants, including some foreign fighters, were killed in retaliatory air strikes.