PARACHINAR/DERA ISMAIL KHAN, Pakistan (Reuters) - A U.S. drone strike killed at least four suspected Taliban militants in northwest Pakistan on Sunday, security officials said, as al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent confirmed two of its commanders had been killed in similar attacks this year.
The strike in North Waziristan, a mountainous border region, came after the army pushed the Taliban out of the major towns and cities there in an offensive that began last June.
On Sunday, two missiles slammed into a house in the steep, heavily forested Shawal valley in North Waziristan, three Pakistani security officials said.
Four Taliban fighters were killed in the strike, said three Pakistani security officials.
Also on Sunday, a spokesman for al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent released an audio message saying two of its leaders had been killed in drone strikes earlier this year.
Obaid Ullah, also called Ustad Ahmed Farooq, was the deputy head of the new al Qaeda offshoot before a drone strike killed him in the third week of January, spokesman Usama Mahmoud said.
Commander Qari Imran and five other fighters were killed in mid January by a drone strike in the Lawra Mandi area of Shawal Valley, Mahmoud said.
Sunday's drone strike is the seventh in Pakistan this year, according to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism in London, which tracks the strikes using media reports. Last year there were 25 drone strikes, it said.
The Pakistan government sometimes protests that such strikes are a violation of its sovereignty. But many in Pakistan suspect that the military has given tacit permission for at least some of the strikes, an impression reinforced after former military ruler Pervez Musharraf acknowledged he had approved one.
This year, the Pakistani military unveiled a drone that can fire missiles and released a video of test strikes against dummy targets. Analysts said much of the external design appeared similar to Chinese drones.
Additional reporting by Haji Mujtaba in Bannu; Writing by Katharine Houreld; Editing by Andrew Heavens