- Associated Press - Sunday, November 7, 2010

PESHAWAR, Pakistan (AP) — A pair of American drone strikes killed 14 suspected militants in northwestern Pakistan on Sunday, local intelligence officials said, in the latest attacks against al Qaeda and Taliban militants seeking sanctuary in the region.

The missiles struck an hour apart in the North Waziristan, the area that has seen the overwhelming majority of drone strikes over the past two months. The rugged region is home to hundreds of Pakistani and foreign militants, many belonging to or allied with al Qaeda and the Taliban.

In the first strike, one American missile slammed into a house and another hit a vehicle in the town of Ghulam Khan just north of Miran Shah, the main town in North Waziristan, the two officials said. Nine insurgents were killed.

An hour later, another pair of missiles struck a vehicle in the nearby town of Datta Khel, killing five suspected militants, the officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to talk to the media. They said all five killed were foreigners.

Further details were not immediately available. The intelligence officials said agents on the ground were collecting more details.

North Waziristan, which is part of the Pakistan’s semiautonomous tribal belt, is home to the Haqqani network, a powerful insurgent group that U.S. officials say is behind many of the attacks on U.S. and NATO forces just across the border in Afghanistan. The group is believed to control the town hit by the first strike Sunday.

The region is too dangerous for outsiders to visit and independently confirm the attacks, and U.S. officials do not acknowledge firing the missiles, much less discuss whom they are targeting.

It is widely believed, however, that Pakistan’s army has given tacit approval to the strikes, and the recent spike in attacks has not attracted a greater level of criticism.

Washington wants Islamabad to launch a military offensive in the region but so far has had to rely on missile strikes to hamper militant operations. The pace of the attacks has picked up recently, with roughly 20 apiece in the past two months, double the preceding monthly tally.

Some locals allege that the suspected U.S. drone strikes regularly kill innocents, while others say the missiles are accurate and most of the dead are militants or villagers knowingly harboring them.

The strikes are carried out by unmanned drones that fly over the region for hours and are equipped with extremely high-powered video cameras.

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