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US drone strike kills seven: officials

world Updated: May 23, 2011 18:45 IST

A US drone strike on Monday destroyed a vehicle in Pakistan's Taliban and al Qaeda-linked stronghold of North Waziristan on the Afghan border, killing seven militants, officials said.

The attack took place on the outskirts of Mir Ali, some 30 kilometres (20 miles) east of Miranshah, the main town of the district where US officials want Pakistan to launch an offensive against networks fighting in Afghanistan.

"A US drone fired two missiles which hit a vehicle. At least seven militants have been killed," one security official in Peshawar said.

Another intelligence official in Miranshah said two drones fired four missiles, hitting a van and killing at least seven militants.

"I do not know whether there was a high-value target. We received reports that those killed in the van were all foreigners," he said.

Monday's attack was the eighth to be reported in Pakistan's tribal areas near the Afghan border since US commandos killed Saudi-born terror mastermind Osama bin Laden in a secret raid in the Pakistani city of Abbottabad on May 2.

The drone strikes are hugely unpopular among the general public, who are deeply opposed to the government's alliance with Washington, and inflame anti-US feeling, which has heightened further after the bin Laden raid.

Missile attacks doubled in the area last year, with more than 100 drone strikes killing over 670 people in 2010, compared with 45 strikes that killed 420 in 2009, according to an AFP tally.

Most have been concentrated in North Waziristan, the most notorious Afghan Taliban and Al-Qaeda bastion in Pakistan, where the United States wants the Pakistan military to launch a ground offensive as soon as possible.

Pakistan says its troops are too overstretched to mount such an assault and that any campaign will be of its own time and choosing.

The United States does not confirm drone attacks, but its military and the CIA in Afghanistan are the only forces that deploy them in the region.

The Pakistani parliament has called for an end to US drone strikes and said there must be no repeat of the operation that killed bin Laden, despite the fact that President Barack Obama has reserved the right to act again.

The raid also rocked Pakistan's seemingly powerful security establishment, with its intelligence services and military widely accused of incompetence or complicity over the presence of bin Laden close to a military academy.