US missile strike kills 12 in north west Pakistan

A US drone aircraft fired two missiles in Pakistan's North Waziristan region on the Afghan border today, killing 12 militants, intelligence officials said.

The missile attack took place hours after the US special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Richard Holbrooke, landed in Islamabad for talks as part of the Pakistan-US strategic dialogue initiated in March.

The drone targeted a suspected militant compound in Sokhel village, about 16 miles east of Miranshah, the main town of the region and known as a hotbed of Taliban and al Qaeda militants, the intelligence officials said.

"Twelve militants have been killed and three wounded in the attack on a compound which is linked to Taliban and al Qaeda," one intelligence official told Reuters on condition of anonymity.

A second intelligence official confirmed the account. A resident, Mohammad Rafiq, told Reuters he had seen 11 bodies.

The nationalities of the dead were not immediately available.

The United States has stepped up missile strikes in Pakistan's northwestern region since a Jordanian suicide bomber killed seven CIA employees at a US base across the border in Afghanistan's eastern Khost province in December.

Most of this year's attacks have been in North Waziristan.

Al-Qa'ida's number three, Sheikh Sa'ad al-Masri, also known as Mustafa Abul al-Yazid, was believed to have been killed in a similar strike in North Waziristan last month.

US ally Pakistan officially objects to the drone strikes, saying they violate its sovereignty and fuel anti-US sentiment, which complicates Pakistan's efforts against militancy.

Pakistani forces are also battling homegrown militants in the northwest and have scored major gains in two offensives launched last year in the Swat Valley and in the militant bastion of South Waziristan on the Afghan border.

Despite losing ground, militants have shown the ability to bounce back and have carried out a wave of bomb and suicide attacks, killing hundreds of civilians and security personnel, mostly in the country's northwest.

In the latest attack, militants targeted a police patrol with a remote-controlled bomb in the northwestern town of Dera Ismail Khan on Saturday, killing a passerby and wounding five policemen, police official Ghulam Asghar said.