U.S. intensifies drone aircraft attacks in Pakistan

Thu May 12, 2011 6:30pm EDT
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By Kamran Haider and Missy Ryan

ISLAMABAD/WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A U.S. drone aircraft fired missiles at militants in Pakistan on Thursday, killing eight of them, Pakistani officials said, as American officials vowed to press forward with such attacks after U.S. forces killed Osama bin Laden in his Pakistani hideout.

The third such strike since bin Laden's killing on May 2 indicated an intensification of the attacks compared with the weeks before the al Qaeda chief was shot dead in the U.S. raid on a compound in the Pakistani garrison town of Abbottabad.

The U.S. bin Laden raid has embarrassed and enraged Pakistan's military and worsened already strained U.S. ties.

In Washington, debate over whether Bush administration interrogation practices helped find bin Laden heated up when Senator John McCain said torture of detained militants did not help track down the al Qaeda leader.

Pakistani officials said they were expecting soon a $300 million payment from the United States for costs incurred in fighting militants in a payment that comes even as U.S. lawmakers question aid to Pakistan after bin Laden was found there.

The drone strikes anger many Pakistanis and are another source of friction between the allies. Pakistan officially objects to the attacks, although U.S. officials say they are carried out on an understanding with Pakistan.

"There are absolutely no plans at present to cease or scale back U.S. counterterrorism operations in Pakistan," one U.S. official said on condition of anonymity. "Efforts to thwart terrorism will continue.

A drone fired two missiles at a vehicle in the North Waziristan region on Thursday headed toward the Afghan border, killing eight militants, Pakistani officials said.   Continued...