U.S. drone strike kills five in Pakistan

MIRANSHAH, Pakistan Mon Apr 26, 2010 10:18am BST

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MIRANSHAH, Pakistan (Reuters) - Three missiles fired by U.S. drone aircraft struck a militant compound in Pakistan's North Waziristan region near the Afghan border on Monday, killing five militants, intelligence officials said.

The strike took place about 24 km (15 miles) east of Miranshah, the main town in North Waziristan, known as a hotbed of Taliban and al Qaeda militants, they said.

"We have got confirmed reports of five dead but the number could be higher," said a Pakistani intelligence official in the region, who declined to be identified.

Another official said militants had cordoned off the area.

It was the second attack by pilotless U.S. aircraft in the area in the past two days. Seven militants were killed in a similar strike Saturday.

The United States, struggling to stabilise Afghanistan, stepped up its missile strikes in Pakistan's northwest after a Jordanian suicide bomber killed seven CIA employees at a U.S. base across the border in the eastern Afghan province of Khost in December.

Most of the attacks this year have been in North Waziristan.

U.S. ally Pakistan officially objects to the drone strikes, saying they are a violation of its sovereignty and fuel anti-U.S. feeling, which complicates Pakistan's efforts against militancy.

Unofficially, however, analysts say Pakistan is cooperating with the United States in identifying at least some of the militant targets the drones attack.

Separately, militants murdered a pro-government cleric in the Bajaur region on the Afghan border after kidnapping him along with three villagers Sunday, a government official said.

"Taliban kidnapped the men when they were going to a mosque in afternoon. They cut his throat and dumped his body on the side of a road," the official, Adalat Khan, told Reuters.

The three villagers were still missing, he said.

Government forces have largely driven militants out of Bajaur, which was for years a Taliban and al Qaeda stronghold, after months of intermittent clashes.

Security forces have also largely cleared the Swat valley, nothwest of Islamabad, and the South Waziristan region on the Afghan border.

But despite that, the militants have time and again shown they are capable of striking back with attacks, not only in their former bastions but in towns and cities across the country.

But overall, security force successes against the militants over the past year have dispelled fears that nuclear-armed Pakistan was sliding into chaos.

March saw the second highest ever monthly foreign inflow into the Karachi Stock Exchange with $113 million. Foreign investors have bought shares worth a net $66.39 million in April, according to official data.

(Reporting by Haji Mujtaba and Alamgir Bitani; Writing by Kamran Haider; Editing by Robert Birsel and Sanjeev Miglani)

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