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US drones kill 48 militants

world Updated: Jul 13, 2011 02:11 IST

At least 48 suspected militants were killed by missiles launched by US drone aircraft in Pakistan’s northwest, local intelligence officials said on Tuesday, one of the largest death tolls to date in the controversial air bombing campaign.

Coming a day after Washington announced an $800 million delay in military assistance amid worsening US-Pakistan ties, the attacks could exacerbate tension between the two allies in the war against militants.

The attacks started on Monday night, when remotely piloted drones fired nine missiles into a militant compound and at a vehicle in North Waziristan, killing 25 suspected insurgents. Another strike hours later in South Waziristan killed five suspected militants. Then on Tuesday, a drone fired two missiles at another compound in North Waziristan.

It was the second-largest death toll in a day in the unacknowledged US drone campaign in Pakistan’s northwest. In June 2009, about 70 suspected militants were killed in a drone attack in South Waziristan.

Washington has been pushing Pakistan to mount an offensive against militant sanctuaries for years, but Pakistan has resisted, saying it must consolidate its gains against Taliban militants elsewhere first.

The US has stepped up drone attacks in response to Pakistan’s perceived recalcitrance.