Sep 1, 2012 / 10:55 am
U.S. drones fired a barrage of missiles at a vehicle and a house in a Pakistani tribal area bordering Afghanistan Saturday, killing at least five suspected militants, Pakistani officials said.
The strikes in the North Waziristan tribal area were the first since news that a top commander of the powerful Haqqani militant network was killed in a drone strike late last month, also in the tribal region.
Two intelligence officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to brief the media, said U.S. drones fired seven missiles at targets in the village of Degan in an area of North Waziristan close to the Afghan border.
They said the area is dominated by anti-American militant commander Hafiz Gul Bahadur, but they did not know whether the men killed belonged to his group.
Bahadur's faction is alleged to have been involved in frequent attacks on U.S. troops in Afghanistan, but generally shies away from carrying out operations inside Pakistan. Several recent drone strikes have killed militants affiliated with Bahadur's group.
The CIA-run drone program is controversial in Pakistan.
Many Pakistanis call it an infringement on the nation's sovereignty and maintain that it causes a high number of civilian casualties, a charge the U.S. denies.
Washington maintains the program is a necessary and effective tool in combatting militants.
A drone strike a week ago in North Waziristan killed Badruddin Haqqani, one of the sons of the founder of the Haqqani network.
The U.S. has blamed the group for a number of high-profile attacks in Afghanistan and considers it one of the key factors in undermining security there.
Badruddin was considered the organization's day-to-day operations commander, and was labeled as a terrorist by the U.S. State Department, along with his father and two of his brothers.
Meanwhile, a group of gunmen on motorcycles in the southwestern province of Baluchistan killed seven Shiite Muslims, as violence against the minority sect continues to escalate.
Senior police officer Wazir Khan Nasir said four gunmen riding two motorcycles stopped a local bus near the central vegetable market of Quetta, the capital of Baluchistan.
The gunmen identified seven people belonging to the Shiite Hazara community, forced them off the bus and shot five of them dead.
Two tried to run away but the gunmen chased them down and killed them in a nearby street, Nasir said.
Hazaras are an ethnic group found in Afghanistan and Pakistan and are predominantly Shiite. They've often been persecuted by Sunni hardliners who consider Shiites to be heretics.
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