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Central & South Asia
'US drone strike' kills four in Pakistan
Officials say dead in North Waziristan attack were fighters from Turkmenistan in third reported drone strike this year.
Last Modified: 23 Jan 2012 08:41

A US drone attack has killed four fighters in Pakistan's North Waziristan region bordering Afghanistan, according to security officials.

Monday's attack, which targeted a vehicle, is the third reported in Pakistan this year following a moratorium after the deaths of 24 Pakistani soldiers in a US air strike in November which plunged relations between the countries to an all-time low.

The attack took place at Degan village, some 25 km west of Miranshah, the main town of North Waziristan, Pakistani officials told the AFP news agency.

"A US drone fired two missiles into a vehicle and four militants were killed," a senior security official said.

Local intelligence officials said the dead fighters were from Turkmenistan, but their exact identities were not immediately known.

"The vehicle burst into flames after the missiles hit. Militants have cordoned the area and (are) taking out the bodies," a local official told AFP.

US officials say Pakistan's tribal belt provides sanctuary to Taliban fighters waging war in Afghanistan, al Qaeda groups plotting attacks on the West, Pakistani Taliban fighters who routinely bomb Pakistan, and other foreign fighters.

North Waziristan is the most notorious of all Pakistan's seven semi-autonomous tribal districts and has been a major focus of US pressure on the Islamabad government to take sterner action against fighters crossing between Afghan and Pakistani territory.

Sixty-four US missile strikes were reported in Pakistan's semi-autonomous tribal belt last year, down from 101 reported in 2010 according to AFP tallies.

The US refuses to discuss drone strikes publicly, but the programme has dramatically increased as the Obama administration looks to withdraw all foreign combat troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2014.

The Pakistani government was understood to assent to the programme despite popular opposition at home and drones have reportedly killed dozens of al Qaeda and Taliban members and hundreds of low-ranking fighters since 2004.

But the missile strikes fuel widespread anti-American resentment, especially high since the deadly US air strikes on November 26.

A US-NATO investigation blamed the deaths on a catalogue of errors and botched communications on both sides.

But Pakistan rejected the findings, insisting the strikes had been deliberate.

Islamabad is now reviewing its entire alliance with the United States and has kept its Afghan border closed to NATO supply convoys for two months.

It ordered US personnel to leave Shamsi air base in western Pakistan, widely believed to have been a hub for the CIA drone programme, and is thought likely to only reopen the Afghan border by exacting taxes on convoys.

Source:
Agence France Presse
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