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US drone strike kills three in Pakistan: officials

world Updated: Oct 15, 2010 16:28 IST

Suspected US unmanned aircraft launched two missiles at a vehicle in the Pakistani tribal region along the Afghan border on Friday, killing three people, Pakistani intelligence officials said.

The attack was in the village of Machi Khel, near Mir Ali in North Waziristan, two officials said on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk with the press. The officials said that the three killed have not yet been identified, but the village is known to house a mix of militants from the Afghan Taliban and local Pakistani insurgent groups.

The US has sharply escalated its use of unmanned drone missile strikes targeting militants in Pakistan's border region in the last two months.

The US rarely acknowledges the covert missile program, but officials have said privately the attacks have killed several senior Taliban and al-Qaida commanders. Pakistan officially opposes the program but is believed to secretly support it.

The US carried out 21 such strikes in September, nearly double the previous monthly record, and has already launched 16 this month including those Friday, according to an Associated Press count. Elsewhere in Pakistan, gunmen ambushed a truck early on Friday that was returning home after delivering NATO supplies in Afghanistan, killing two people.

Local official Iqbal Khan said the truck was attacked near Jamrud in the Khyber tribal region. The driver and his assistant were killed, and the unidentified gunmen then torched the truck. The attack was the most recent in a rash of assaults on the Pakistan supply line used to carry non-lethal goods including fuel, military vehicles, spare parts and clothing to foreign troops in landlocked Afghanistan.

Nearly 150 trucks were destroyed as they sat idle during the 11 days Pakistan closed a key border crossing in protest of a NATO helicopter strike that killed two Pakistani border guards. Pakistan reopened the route on Sunday.

The US and NATO at one point sent about 80 percent of their non-lethal supplies through Pakistan into Afghanistan, but have been steadily reducing that amount. Now about 40 percent of supplies now come through Pakistan, 40 percent through the Central Asian routes, and 20 percent by air.

Later on Friday in Peshawar, an assailant threw a hand grenade behind a local government office, said police official Dost Mohammad Khan. Two children were wounded in the explosion, he said. It was not known who was behind the attack, but Taliban and al-Qaida militants based in the Afghan border region - who are fighting Pakistani police and the army - have carried out hundreds of attacks over the last three years. They have frequently targeted security forces, government officials and their supporters or family members in mosques, schools and markets, showing no concern for civilian casualties.

Peshawar, the capital of the northwest region, has been one of the hardest-hit cities because it lies close to the border area.