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US missiles kill 16 in Pakistan

The United States has fired missiles at three suspected militant targets in north-west Pakistan, killing 16 people, according to intelligence officials.

The attack maintained the pressure on insurgents days after a strike was believed to have killed a top al-Qaida commander.

The identities of the dead in the unusually intense volley of drone-fired strikes in the tribal region of South Waziristan are not yet known, but several Arabs are said to be among the victims of one of them, said the officials.

Since the US raid which killed Osama bin Laden on May 2 in the Pakistani garrison town of Abbottabad, missile strikes have picked up pace from a relative lull in the first half of this. But anger at the bin Laden operation, seen by Pakistan as a violation of its sovereignty, has led to fresh calls on Washington to stop the attacks.

Monday's attacks happened in South Waziristan, where the Pakistani army launched an offensive in 2009 but where al-Qaida and Taliban fighters still remain.

Before dawn, one set of missiles hit a compound in Wucha Dana village, killing seven people. The second set landed at about the same time at a Muslim seminary in the same village, killing five people, said two Pakistani intelligence officials.

Later, missiles hit a vehicle travelling in Dra Nishter village elsewhere in the region, killing four, said the officials.

Pakistani authorities said on Sunday that they are increasingly sure a missile strike in South Waziristan on Friday killed Ilyas Kashmiri, a top al-Qaida commander rumoured to be an outside contender to replace bin Laden as the terror network's chief.

America said its missiles have killed hundreds of militants, including several top al-Qaida commanders, since they began in earnest in 2008. There have been more 30 this year, compared with last year's tally of around 130..

Also on Monday, the Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for a bomb which killed 18 people at a bakery in an army neighbourhood in the north-west town of Nowshera the previous night. The militant group said the attack was in revenge for Pakistani army actions against them in the nearby Swat Valley.

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