Suspected US drones have fired four missiles at two compounds in northwestern Pakistan near the Afghan border, killing 16 people, Pakistani intelligence officials said.

The strikes occurred just before midnight on Tuesday in Bobar village in the South Waziristan tribal area, a stronghold of the Pakistani Taliban, said officials, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The two compounds were hit about 20 minutes apart, said the officials. It is unclear how many people were killed in each compound.

The Pakistani military conducted a large ground offensive against the Pakistani Taliban in South Waziristan in 2009, but group members have remained in the area and still carry out periodic attacks.

Earlier on Tuesday night, fighters attacked an army checkpoint in the Ladha area of South Waziristan with rockets, killing one soldier and wounding another, intelligence officials said.

The area where the drone strikes occurred is very remote and has not yet been cleared by the military, said the intelligence officials.

There has been at least one strike in this area before.

The US does not acknowledge the CIA-run drone programme in Pakistan publicly, but officials have said privately that the strikes have killed many senior al-Qaeda and Taliban commanders.

The Obama administration has ramped up the number of drone strikes in Pakistan's rugged tribal region in the past few years. Most of the strikes have targeted al-Qaeda or Afghan Taliban fighters battling US forces in Afghanistan.

Pakistani officials have criticised the strikes as violations of the country's sovereignty, but the government is widely believed to have supported the strikes in the past and even let the drones take off from bases inside Pakistan.

Source: Agencies