- Associated Press - Friday, October 14, 2011

PESHAWAR, Pakistan — Drone-fired U.S. missiles killed four people in a northwestern Pakistani region controlled by the Haqqani militant network on Friday, a day after a similar attack there killed a top commander of the group, Pakistani officials said.

The identities of the dead in the North Waziristan region were not known, the officials said.

The four were riding in a car close to Miran Shah town, the main base of the Haqqani network, when two missiles struck, said the officials, who did not give their names because they were not allowed to brief reporters.

U.S. intelligence believes the Haqqanis are the top threat to security in Afghanistan and that they enjoy the support of the Pakistani army. It wants the army to sever its ties and attack the group, something that Islamabad refuses to do.

The issue is a main cause of tensions between the two countries.

On Thursday, a missile attack close to Miran Shah killed Janbaz Zadran, who U.S. officials said was a top commander in the network who helped orchestrate attacks in Kabul and southeastern Afghanistan. They said he was the most senior Haqqani leader in Pakistan to be taken off the battlefield.

Earlier Friday, two militants killed alongside Zadran were buried in the town of Lakki Marwat, which lies just outside the tribal regions. About 2,000 supporters attended the funeral of one of the men, Maulana Iftikhar. They included Arab militants and a lawmaker from the country’s largest opposition party.

The size of the funeral indicated significant support in that region for fighters battling the American presence just across the border in Afghanistan. The Pashtun ethnic group that accounts for most of the resistance in Afghanistan straddles the frontier.

Iftikhar was the head of an Islamic school in Miran Shah. He came from Lakki Marwat.

Locals said he was involved in “jihad” in Afghanistan.

“Maulana Iftikhar is a martyr, and we warn America to immediately stop these drone attacks,” said Ahmed Jan Qureshi, a local leader of the Islamist Jamiat Ulema Islam political party. “America should realize that these attacks are causing hate against it, and see these thousands of people who are here to attend funeral of a martyr.”

Also present was Munawar Khan, the town’s local lawmaker and a member of the opposition party of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. He declined to speak to The Associated Press.

Since 2008, the United States has regularly unleashed unmanned drone-fired missiles against militants in the border region. Pakistani officials protest the strikes, which are unpopular among many Pakistanis, but the country is believed to support them privately and makes no diplomatic or military efforts to stop them.

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