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US drone attacks kill 21 in Pakistan

At least 21 militants were killed today in two US drone attacks that targeted suspected hideouts of Islamist insurgents in Pakistan's tribal region near the Afghan border, security officials said.

world Updated: May 11, 2010 23:12 IST

At least 21 militants were killed on Tuesday in two US drone attacks that targeted suspected hideouts of Islamist insurgents in Pakistan's tribal region near the Afghan border, security officials said.

The first strike hit the Datta Khel area of the North Waziristan tribal district, a stronghold of Taliban and Al-Qaeda militants.

"The drones fired 18 missiles at a house and vehicle parked there," an intelligence official said. "Fourteen people died while six were injured."

A second intelligence official confirmed the attack, saying most of those killed were members of a Pakistani Taliban group headed by warlord Hafiz Gul Bahadur.

Hours later, a second drone strike hit a compound and a car at Gurweek, 46 km southwest of Miran Shah, the main town in North Waziristan.

"Our reports show that seven militants were killed in the attack," an intelligence official said on the condition of not being named.

"A mud compound and car parked nearby were destroyed in the attack," he said.

A senior military official also confirmed that the strike was a drone attack, but he refused to verify the toll.

North Waziristan, one of the seven districts in Pakistan's lawless tribal region, is used as a base by many Al-Qaeda and Taliban militants, who run training camps and conduct crossborder raids on NATO troops in Afghanistan.

Unlike other tribal districts, North Waziristan has escaped Pakistan's recent assault on Islamist insurgents, mainly because the militants there have a peace deal with the government under which they avoid attacking official targets.

But the pressure is mounting on Pakistan for an all-out offensive in the district since Faisal Shahzad, a US citizen of Pakistani origin, admitted he received training in the region for last week's attempted bombing in New York.

The US Central Intelligence Agency is conducting a drone bombing campaign against the militants and their hideouts in the region.

More than 900 people, most of them militants but also many civilians, have died in more than 100 airstrikes since August 2008.

Pakistan officially criticises the drone attacks as a violation of national sovereignty that fuels public resentment. But many analysts said the country's intelligence agencies secretly cooperate in the attacks by giving information about possible targets.