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US drone attack kills 10 in Pakistan: officials

A US drone attack on Thursday killed 10 militants from a network fighting Western troops in Afghanistan at their compound in Pakistan's tribal belt, officials said.

world Updated: Sep 25, 2009 10:12 IST

A US drone attack on Thursday killed 10 militants from a network fighting Western troops in Afghanistan at their compound in Pakistan's tribal belt, officials said.

The strike from a suspected US spy plane was the fourth this month in North Waziristan, where militants linked to Taliban and Al-Qaeda who are fighting against 100,000 US and NATO troops in Afghanistan are said to be hiding.

"Ten dead bodies were recovered from the debris of the house and two militants were wounded in the attack," a Pakistani security official told AFP on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to speak publicly.

Another official and residents confirmed the same toll, but one official in the semi-autonomous North Waziristan district said seven people were killed.

"The target was a compound of Haqqani's men. According to our reports all of the dead belong to the Haqqani network," the Pakistani official said.

The Haqqani network is a powerful group based in northwest Pakistan closely linked to Al-Qaeda and known for its ruthless and sophisticated attacks, including an assassination attempt on Afghan President Hamid Karzai in 2008.

"One missile fired by a US drone hit the house of Afghan national Ahmad Afghani," said a Pakistani security official.

There were unconfirmed reports that one the sons of former Soviet resistance commander in Afghanistan, Jalaluddin Haqqani, is called Ahmad.

"We are investigating whether it was the son or not," a security official told AFP after the attack in Dandy Darpa Khel area, five kilometres (three miles) northwest of Miransha in the North Waziristan tribal district.

The targeted building acted as an office where militants would come to receive orders and rest between bouts of fighting across the border in Afghanistan, local residents and Pakistani intelligence officials said.

It was not clear whether Ahmad Afghani was present at the time of the attack. Five other people were injured but the identities of the casualties were not clear given the remote location and late hour of the attack.

The United States says Islamist fighters are hiding in the Pakistani mountains near the Afghan border, plotting attacks on Western targets and crossing the porous frontier to attack foreign troops based in Afghanistan.

Taliban and Al-Qaeda rebels fled Afghanistan after the 2001 US-led invasion, carving out boltholes and training camps in the remote Pakistani mountains.

The US military does not, as a rule, confirm drone attacks, but its armed forces and the Central Intelligence Agency operating in neighbouring Afghanistan are the only forces that deploy pilotless drones in the region.

Islamabad publicly opposes the US missile strikes, saying they violate its territorial sovereignty and deepen resentment among the populace. Since August 2008, nearly 60 such strikes have killed more than 550 people.

Thursday's attack -- 15 to 30 minutes before midnight -- came as the US Senate voted to triple non-military aid to Pakistan to roughly 1.5 billion dollars a year for the next five years in a bid to build trust and cooperation.

One of Pakistan's answers to counter militants who have waged a bombing campaign across the country that has killed more than 2,000 people in two years has been to arm and support tribesmen to protect communities in the northwest.

Taliban gunmen in Bannu, which neighbours North Waziristan, killed nine tribesmen and fought with one of the pro-government militias increasingly on the frontline of Pakistan's fight against Islamist rebels on Thursday.

Up to 16 people -- seven pro-government elders, two allied tribal militiamen and seven Taliban militants -- died in the violence, police said.