PESHAWAR – Just a day after first Nato trucks crossed the border into Afgha-nistan after a seven-month shutdown, a triple US drone attack on a compound in North Waziristan killed at least 24 suspected militants late Friday.
Officials said foreigners were among those killed when missiles hit a compound in the area. It was one of deadliest US strikes and the first such attack since Pakistan reopened NATO supply lines into Afghanistan.
Three unmanned aircraft fired a total of six missiles on Datta Khel village, some 35 kilometres east of Miranshah.
The initial strike on a house killed 13 militants, five more were killed in a second attack when they drove to the site to recover dead bodies, and a third drone killed six more five minutes later, a senior security official in Peshawar said.
The death toll from the strikes in Dattakhel in North Waziristan could rise, the officials said.
Two security officials in Miranshah confirmed all the three strikes but told AFP that at least 20 militants have been killed, and one said the militants had gathered to send fighters into Afghanistan.
Dattakhel is considered to be a stronghold of Hafiz Gul Bahadur, a Taliban commander who is accused of sending fighters across the border to fight NATO troops in Afghanistan. A similar drone attack on Sunday killed eight of Bahadur’s fighters.
The drone attacks, however, remain a source of deep frustration and tension between the US and Pakistan. Islamabad says they violate its sovereignty and also cause civilian casualties. Washington has refused, and US officials say the drone strikes are an effective tool in combating militants.
Drone attacks are highly unpopular in Pakistan, where they are seen as an infringement of the country’s sovereignty and counter-productive in the fight against extremists, though a report on Monday said fewer civilians had been killed in drone strikes in the troubled country this year than at any time in the past four years.