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US airstrike kills 12 in Pakistan

Drone aircraft have unleashed a fresh missile attack that has killed 12 people during the most intense period of US strikes in Pakistan since they began in 2004, intelligence officials said.

The stepped-up campaign that included Wednesday's strike is focused on a small area of farming villages and mountainous, thickly forested terrain controlled by the Haqqani network, a ruthless foe in Afghanistan, US officials said.

One official says there was some evidence the network was being squeezed as a result.

Two Pakistani intelligence officials said US missiles hit a house in Dargah Mandi, 2.5 miles west of the main town of Miran Shah, in North Waziristan, a lawless tribal region on the Afghan border.

US officials said the airstrikes were designed to degrade the Haqqanis' operations on the Pakistani side of the border, creating a "hammer-and-anvil" effect as US special operations forces carry out raids against their fighters across the frontier in Afghanistan.

The missiles have killed more than 60 people in 13 strikes since September 2 in the Pakistani region of North Waziristan, according to a tally based on Pakistani intelligence officials' reports.

Many struck around Datta Khel, a town of about 40,000 people that sits on a strategically vital road to the Afghan border.

The border region has long been a refuge for Islamist extremists from around the world. Osama Bin Laden and other al Qaida leaders are believed to have fled there after the US-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001.

US and Pakistani intelligence officials said most of this month's strikes have targeted the forces of Jalaluddin and Sirajuddin Haqqani, a former anti-Soviet commander and his son who are now battling American forces in eastern Afghanistan.

The raids targeting the group in Afghanistan are led mainly by the Joint Special Operations Command. Such raids across Afghanistan are now more frequent than at any previous time in the nearly nine-year war, with some 4,000 recorded between May and August as special operations numbers were boosted by troops arriving from Iraq.

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