A suspected US missile strike on the house of a Taliban commander near the Afghan border killed up to 20 people on Monday, Pakistani intelligence officials said. The reported strike occurred in the South Waziristan region, part of Pakistan's wild border zone that is considered a possible hiding place for Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida No. 2 Ayman al-Zawahri. Two intelligence officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to speak to media on the record, said the targeted house in Mandata Raghzai village belonged to a lieutenant of local Taliban chief Maulvi Nazir.
The officials, citing reports from agents and informers in the area, said militants cordoned off the scene and the identity of the victims was not immediately clear.
Missile strikes into Pakistan's border region have escalated sharply in recent months, as American commanders have complained that Pakistani forces are not putting enough pressure on militants in strongholds on their territory.
U.S. military and CIA drones that patrol the frontier region are believed to have carried out at least a dozen missile strikes since August. The United States rarely confirms or denies involvement in the attacks.
Pakistani leaders have protested the strikes as an unacceptable violation of the country's sovereignty and argue that the attacks only fuel Islamic extremism in the region.