Officials: US missile attacks kill 9 in Pakistan
MIR ALI, Pakistan—Suspected U.S. unmanned aircraft launched two missile strikes in a Pakistani tribal region along the Afghan border, killing nine people, Pakistani intelligence officials said.
A militant attack on an army checkpoint killed five Pakistani soldiers elsewhere in the northwest on Friday, other officials said.
The missile attacks targeted two villages near Mir Ali in North Waziristan, intelligence officials said on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk with the press.
The officials said three were killed Friday during the first missile strike, which hit a vehicle in Machi Khel. The dead 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 second missile strike occurred several hours later, killing six suspected militants at a house in Aziz Khel.
The U.S. has sharply escalated its use of unmanned drone missile strikes targeting militants in Pakistan's border region in the last two months.
The U.S. 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 U.S. carried out 21 such strikes in September, nearly double the previous monthly record, and it has already launched 16 this month including those Friday, according to an Associated Press count.
In an early morning attack in South Waziristan on Friday, five Pakistani soldiers were killed when militants sprayed an army checkpoint with gunfire, two other intelligence officials said, also on condition of anonymity. One other soldier was missing after the attack at the checkpoint in the village of Sararogha, they said.
Pakistan launched a major ground operation in South Waziristan last year that they claimed had cleared the area of militants, but sporadic attacks have continued.
Elsewhere in Pakistan, gunmen ambushed a truck early in the morning as it was returning home after delivering NATO supplies in Afghanistan, killing the driver and his assistant. Local official Iqbal Khan said the truck was attacked near Jamrud in the Khyber tribal region.
It 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 Sunday.
The U.S. 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.
Associated Press Writer Riaz Khan contributed to this report from Peshawar.