- Associated Press - Thursday, November 17, 2011

PESHAWAR, Pakistan — Suspected U.S. drones fired four missiles at a compound in Pakistan’s rugged tribal region near the Afghan border on Thursday, killing eight alleged militants and wounding two others in the third such strike in as many days, Pakistani intelligence officials said.

Elsewhere in the tribal region, Pakistani security forces pounded militant hideouts in two different areas, killing 37 suspected militants, said government officials. The figures could not be independently verified because of the difficulty of reporting in the tribal region.

The drones struck in the Ramzak area of North Waziristan, the main hub for Taliban and al Qaeda militants in Pakistan, said the officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to reporters.

The U.S. has conducted around 200 drone strikes in North Waziristan in recent years, most targeting al Qaeda militants and Afghan Taliban fighters who are battling American troops in Afghanistan.

The U.S. does not acknowledge the CIA-run drone program in Pakistan publicly, but officials have said privately that the strikes have killed many senior al Qaeda and Taliban commanders.

Pakistani officials have criticized the strikes as violations of the country’s sovereignty, but the government is widely believed to have supported the strikes in the past and even let the drones take off from bases inside Pakistan.

That support has become strained as the relationship between the U.S. and Pakistan has deteriorated, especially in the wake of the covert American raid that killed al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden in a Pakistani garrison town in May. The Pakistani government was not notified of the operation beforehand.

The U.S. has pushed Pakistan to take military action in North Waziristan, or at least provide Washington with intelligence that could be used to target insurgents battling American forces in Afghanistan. The U.S. is especially focused on the Haqqani network, which it deems the most dangerous militant group in Afghanistan.

Pakistan has said it can’t conduct a military operation in North Waziristan because its troops are stretched too thin fighting the Pakistani Taliban in other parts of the tribal region. Many analysts believe, however, that Pakistan is reluctant to target groups like the Haqqani network with which it has historical ties and could be useful allies in Afghanistan after foreign forces withdraw.

Pakistani security forces pounded militant hideouts in the Orakzai tribal area Thursday, killing 25 suspected militants, said Mohammed Saleem, a local government administrator.

Security forces also hit hideouts in the Kurram tribal area, killing 12 suspected militants, said Wajid Khan, a local government administrator.

Associated Press writer Hussain Afzal contributed to this report from Parachinar, Pakistan.

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