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18 suspected millitants killed in drone strikes

world Updated: Oct 02, 2010 20:32 IST

Three US drone strikes in Pakistan's volatile northwest killed at least 18 suspected militants on Sunday amid escalating tensions between the two countries over the killing of three Pakistani soldiers in a NATO strike.

The drones carried out two back-to-back attacks at Datta Khel in North Waziristan Agency, an area near the Afghan border that has been repeatedly targeted by the drones since last month.

In the first attack, two pilotless spy planes fired three missiles at a militant hideout, killing nine suspected militants.

Three more suspected militants were killed in the second attack, which was carried out at the same site as people gathered to pull the dead and injured out of the militant compound.

The third drone strike targeted a vehicle in the same area, killing six suspected militants.

The dead and wounded included foreign fighters but it was not clear whether any high-profile militant was among those killed.

US drones have carried out nearly two dozen attacks on Al Qaida and Taliban elements in Waziristan since early September, and media reports have said the sudden surge in missile strikes was linked to the uncovering of a terror plot to target key European cities.

Pakistani authorities have resisted pressure from the US and its allies to launch a military campaign in North Waziristan, which is a key base for the Haqqani network and commanders Hafiz Gul Bahadur and Mulla Nazir.

Islamabad has halted the transportation of supplies to US-led forces in Afghanistan after three Pakistani soldiers were killed in a recent air strike by NATO helicopters.

Pakistan protested against the attack, describing it as a violation of its sovereignty.