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Eight killed in US drone attack

Eight suspected militants have been killed by a US drone in a Pakistani tribal region near the border with Afghanistan, security officials have said.

The latest attack is believed to have killed fighters loyal to militant commander Hafiz Gul Bahadur.

Bahadur is thought to have an informal working relationship with the Pakistani army, refraining from targeting the security forces while focusing on US and Nato forces in nearby Afghanistan.

The continued strikes, despite the likely political fallout, show Washington's confidence in the effectiveness of the drone programme against al Qaida and Taliban fighters who are believed to use Pakistan as a base.

Two Pakistani intelligence officials said four Hellfire missiles were fired at a house used by suspected militants in Dre Nishter village in North Waziristan.

The officials said some foreign militants belonging to the Turkmenistan Islamic Movement were believed to have been killed, along with other local fighters from the Bahadur group. Militants from several central Asian countries have joined Afghans, Arabs and others in Pakistan.

North Waziristan is one of several tribal areas along the border with Afghanistan that are hubs of militant activity. Bahadur controls most of North Waziristan.

The US rarely talks publicly about the covert CIA-run drone programme in Pakistan.

The drone attacks are a source of deep frustration and tension between the US and Pakistan. Islamabad says they violate its sovereignty and also cause civilian casualties.

The attacks also complicate efforts to normalise the relationship between Washington and Islamabad, including reopening supply routes through Pakistani territory to Nato and American forces in Afghanistan. Islamabad blocked the routes after American airstrikes accidentally killed 24 Pakistani soldiers in November.


From Belfast Telegraph