U.S. missile strike kills 5 militants in Pakistan

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MIR ALI, Pakistan (AP) — A suspected U.S. drone fired three missiles at a house in northwestern Pakistan on Sunday, killing five alleged militants in the 14th such attack this month — the most intense barrage since the strikes began in 2004, intelligence officials said.

The house belonged to a local militant and was located in Datta Khel, a town in the North Waziristan tribal area that is controlled by militants who regularly launch cross-border attacks against NATO troops in Afghanistan, said the officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak with the media.

The exact identities of the militants were not known. But U.S. and Pakistani intelligence officials have said most of this month’s strikes have targeted forces led by Jalaluddin Haqqani, a commander who was once supported by Pakistan and the United States during the war against the Soviets in Afghanistan.

Mr. Haqqani has since turned against the United States, and American military officials have said his network presents the greatest threat to foreign forces in Afghanistan.

The United States has pressured Pakistan to launch a military offensive against the network, but Pakistani officials have pushed back — a move that many analysts believe is driven by their desire to maintain their historical relationship with the group, which could be an ally in Afghanistan after foreign forces withdraw.

Without a Pakistani offensive, the United States has had to rely on CIA-operated drone strikes to target the network, which is based in North Waziristan and adjacent areas in Afghanistan.

Including Sunday’s attack, fourteen missile strikes have killed more than 65 people since Sept. 2, according to an Associated Press tally based on Pakistani intelligence officials’ reports. Many have struck in and around Datta Khel, which has a population of about 40,000 people and sits on a strategically vital road to the Afghan border.

U.S. officials do not publicly acknowledge the missile strikes but have said privately that they have killed several senior Taliban and al Qaeda militants and scores of foot soldiers in the region, which is largely out of the control of the Pakistani state.

Pakistani officials often criticize the strikes as a violation of the country’s sovereignty, but the government widely is believed to help the United States carry out the attacks. Pakistani criticism has been more muted in recent months.

U.S. forces began targeting Pakistan’s tribal regions with aerial drones in 2004, but the number of strikes soared in 2008 and has been climbing steadily since then, with nearly 70 attacks this year, according to an AP tally.

Until now, the highest number of airstrikes inside Pakistan in a single month was the 11 launched in January 2010 after a suicide bomber killed a Jordanian intelligence officer and seven CIA employees at a base in Afghanistan.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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