US resumes drone attacks along Afghan border

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The Independent Online

An American drone attack has killed four Islamist militants in Pakistan in the first such assault since errant US air strikes killed two dozen Pakistani troops in November.

The attack on Tuesday was in North Waziristan, an al-Qa'ida and Taliban stronghold near the Afghan border that has been pounded by US strikes, Pakistani intelligence officials said yesterday. Three of the dead were Arab fighters.

The late-night missile launch broke the longest pause between strikes since the drone programme began in earnest in 2009.

American officials say there had been no promise by Washington to avoid drone operations since the deadly air strikes along the Afghan border on 26 November, but that the lull was part of efforts to reduce tensions with Pakistan, seen by many US officials as key to a negotiated peace in Afghanistan.

The November assault prompted Islamabad to shut down vital supply routes into Afghanistan. Pakistan also forced the US to vacate Shamsi Air Base in south-western Baluchistan province. The US used the base to service drones that targeted militants in the tribal regions close to Afghanistan.

It was unclear whether the US had given any indication that it would resume strikes, or whether Tuesday's attack would hamper American efforts to mend bridges with Islamabad.