U.S. Missiles Kill Suspected Militants In Pakistan

Originally published on June 8, 2011 12:22 pm

A pair of U.S. drone missiles blasted an alleged militant compound in Pakistan's tribal area and killed at least 23 suspected Taliban fighters Wednesday, Pakistani officials said.

The U.S. strikes continue a campaign that has accelerated since the killing of Osama bin Laden last month.

A Pakistani security official told NPR on condition of anonymity that the missiles targeted a gathering in North Waziristan of suspected low-level Taliban militants loyal to Hafiz Gul Bahadur, an ally of the Pakistan Taliban whose followers target NATO and U.S. forces across the border in Afghanistan.

The first strike is said to have killed at least four suspected militants while the second missile killed 19, according to the security official. He added that no prominent militant leader was among the dead in the Shawal area, which lies along the border that separates the South and North Waziristan tribal regions.

North Waziristan is the usual target for U.S. missiles because it is home to more groups fighting in Afghanistan and because the Pakistani military has resisted U.S. appeals to launch an offensive there.

Since 2008, the U.S. has increased its use of drone-fired missiles to take out al-Qaida and Taliban targets in Pakistan. Islamabad officially protests the strikes as violations of Pakistan's sovereignty, but it is widely believed to have secretly provided intelligence for some of them.

The May 2 raid that killed bin Laden in Abbottabad, a garrison city in Pakistan's northwest, infuriated Pakistani lawmakers who saw it as another violation of their sovereignty. The country's parliament passed a resolution demanding that the missile strikes end, but the U.S. has ignored it.

As the drones continue unabated, Pakistan's army has reportedly sent home 90 of 135 U.S. military personnel training Pakistani forces in counterinsurgency — a major setback to the fractious U.S.-Pakistan relationship.

NPR's Julie McCarthy reported from Islamabad, Pakistan, for this story, which contains material from The Associated Press.

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