Pakistan: US drone attacks kill 45 militants

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The Independent Online

At least 45 suspected militants have been killed in a series of missile strikes from US drone aircraft in Pakistan's north-west, one of the largest death tolls to date in the controversial air bombing campaign.

The attacks, which came days after Washington announced a delay in $800m (£500m) of military assistance amid worsening US-Pakistan ties, could exacerbate tension between the two uneasy allies in the war against militants.

The attacks started on Monday night, when remotely piloted drones fired nine missiles into a militant compound and at a vehicle in North Waziristan, killing 25 suspected insurgents, local intelligence officials said.

Another strike hours later in South Waziristan killed five suspected militants. Then yesterday morning, a drone fired two missiles at another compound in North Waziristan, killing 15. There was no independent confirmation of the death tolls.

It was the second-largest death toll in 24 hours in the unacknowledged US drone campaign in Pakistan's north-west. In June 2009, about 70 suspected militants were killed by drone attacks.

Most of the strikes target South and North Waziristan, mountainous tribal regions on the Afghan border that shelter militant groups.