PESHAWAR, Pakistan – American unmanned planes fired two missiles at a house in a Pakistani tribal region close to the Afghan border on Thursday, killing seven alleged militants, the latest in a barrage of such attacks, intelligence officials said.
The strike in North Waziristan was the third attack there in the past 24 hours.
The region is home to hundreds of Pakistan and foreign Islamist militants, many belonging to or allied with al-Qaida and the Taliban. It is also the base of a powerful insurgent group that U.S. officials say is behind many of the attacks just across the border in Afghanistan.
Thursday’s strike in the Datta Khel area killed five unidentified “foreign” and two local militants, three intelligence officials said. They did not give their names in line with the policy of the agency they work for.
It is all but impossible to independently verify the accounts of intelligence officials. The region is too dangerous for outsiders to visit the scene of the attacks and U.S. officials do not acknowledge firing the missiles, much less discuss who they are targeting.
Two other attacks Wednesday killed seven suspected militants.
There have now been at least 20 suspected U.S. missile strikes in Pakistan this month, many of them in North Waziristan. There were 21 such attacks in September, nearly double the previous monthly record.
Washington is under pressure to beat back the insurgency in Afghanistan and bring its troops there back home.
Many of the missile strikes are reported to hit at militants focused on fighting in Afghanistan and using North Waziristan as a safe haven. The Pakistan army has so far resisted U.S. pressure to launch an offensive in the region, as it has in other border areas.
Pakistani officials often publicly criticize the strikes, but the surge over the last two months has not led to increased protests, suggesting the army does not object to them. The silence over the drones contrast with the outcry over incursions into Pakistani territory by NATO helicopters earlier this month that led to Islamabad blocking a key supply route for U.S. and allied force.
The army is widely believed to provide intelligence information for the drone attacks and even allows drones to take off from a base inside Pakistan. Human rights groups have raised concerns of civilian casualties and questioned the legality of what they sometimes term “extrajudicial killings.”