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12 dead in US drone missile strikes in Pakistan

June 20, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
U.S. drones have reportedly carried out two missile strikes in northwestern Pakistan, near the Afghan border.

Twelve people were killed, seven of them militants, in a rare attack in an area where some of NATO's fiercest enemies have reportedly traveled, according to Pakistani officials.

The Obama administration has dramatically stepped up covert CIA drone attacks against militants in Pakistan, but there have only been a handful of strikes in the Kurram tribal area. Monday's strikes could indicate an expansion of the program.

Most of the recent drone strikes have taken place in North Waziristan, an important sanctuary for the Haqqani network, which U.S. military officials have said is the most dangerous militant group battling foreign forces in Afghanistan.

The U.S. has repeatedly asked Pakistan to launch an offensive against the network in North Waziristan, but the military has said that its forces are stretched too thin by other operations in the tribal areas.

Local tribesmen said late last year that the Haqqani network cut a deal with Shiite Muslim militias in Kurram to allow the militants to cross through the area on their way to fighting in Afghanistan. The route would help them avoid the drone attacks that have rained down on North Waziristan.

Drone attacks are extremely unpopular in Pakistan and have generated tension between Washington and Islamabad, which increased following the U.S. raid that killed Osama bin Laden in May and humiliated the Pakistani government.

The Associated Press contributed to this story


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