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Drone missile strike kills 13

A SUSPECTED US drone fired two missiles at an alleged militant hide-out yesterday in northwestern Pakistan, killing 13 people in the latest strike aimed at extremists who pose a threat to international troops in Afghanistan, intelligence officials and residents said.

The home targeted just after dawn yesterday was in North Waziristan, one of Pakistan's tribal regions believed to be an important base for al-Qaida and Taliban militants, the intelligence officials said.

The dead and injured included local and foreign militants, but women and children were also killed in the attack, said the officials.

A local tribal elder, Dilawar Khan, confirmed that 13 people were killed in the strike, saying the owner's family was among the dead. He said he did not know the identities of the others killed or whether there were militants staying at the home, in Data Khel village very close to the Afghan border.

Government officials were not immediately available for comment. The strike was believed to be the first in Orakzai, a sign the United States is expanding its attack zone.

Some 700 people in Orakzai protested US missile strikes yesterday, blocking a main road in the region for two hours and chanting anti-American slogans, said a local resident, Azeem Khan.

Pakistan says the drone strikes violate the country's sovereignty, kill innocent civilians and generate sympathy for the militants. But the US believes the attacks are an effective tool to combat militants in the region.

The US Embassy in Islamabad issued a warning on Friday saying the Pakistani government had information indicating potential suicide bombers and weapons have been smuggled into the country. It said the US government personnel have been warned to avoid hotels in the southern city of Karachi and to restrict movement around cities.

President Barack Obama has said he will step up the pressure on Pakistan to crack down on militants in its territory by making aid to the country conditional on the government's anti-terrorism efforts. Pakistan has said it is committed to the fight, but many Western officials suspect its military intelligence agency of maintaining links with militant groups.

Obama said last month the US would insist that action be taken "one way or another" when it has intelligence about terrorists targets, a likely reference to the drone strikes.


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