October 26, 2008 / 9:33 PM / in 9 years

Suspected U.S. drone kills up to 20 militants

PESHAWAR, Pakistan (Reuters) - A suspected U.S. drone fired missiles on Monday into a Pakistani region on the Afghan border that is a stronghold of a Pakistani Taliban leader, killing up to 20 militants, intelligence officials said.

<p>Pakistan's army soldiers stand guard next to damaged houses in Loisam town, in the Bajaur tribal region, October 25, 2008. REUTERS/Emilio Morenatti/Pool</p>

Suspected U.S. drones have carried out more than a dozen such missile attacks on militant targets on the Pakistani side of its border with Afghanistan since the beginning of September, killing dozens of people.

“Two missiles were fired, they hit two houses in Shakai and up to 20 militants were killed,” said one of the Pakistani intelligence agency officials, referring to an area in the South Waziristan region that is a stronghold of Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud.

The intelligence agency officials, who declined to be identified, had no details about the identity of the militants in the houses hit by the missiles.

The Pentagon said it had no information on the drone strike.

U.S. forces in Afghanistan, frustrated over growing cross-border attacks from the Pakistani side of the border, have stepped up their attacks into Pakistan with missile strikes and a commando raid since the beginning of September.

No senior al Qaeda or Taliban commanders have been reported to have been killed.

Pakistan, an important partner in the U.S.-led campaign against militancy, objects to the U.S. strikes on its territory saying they violate its sovereignty and increase support for the militants.

Mehsud is Pakistan’s most notorious militant commander, blamed for a string of suicide bomb attacks in Pakistan including the assassination of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto in December last year.

He also supports Taliban militants battling U.S.-led forces in Afghanistan.

Mehsud, speaking through a spokesman, denied any involvement in Bhutto’s killing in a suicide gun and bomb attack in the city of Rawalpindi, near the Pakistani capital, Islamabad.

Reporting by Alamgir Bitani and Haziz Wazir; Writing by Zeeshan Haider; Editing by Robert Birsel and Jon Boyle

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