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US Drone Missile Strikes Kill 15 Pakistanis, in North Waziristan 

Reuters, January 1, 2011, 02:37 pm

Haji Mujtaba

Suspected U.S. drone aircraft strikes killed 15 (Pakistanis referred to by Reuters as militants) in northwest Pakistan on Saturday.

The attacks by unmanned U.S. drone aircraft were reported by local Pakistani intelligence officials in North Waziristan. A day earlier, five Pakistanis were killed by drones in the same region.

The intensity of the attacks could mean a high-value target was spotted in the ethnic Pashtun tribal region.

Leaders of the Haqqani network, one of the most lethal Afghan factions fighting U.S.-led NATO troops in Afghanistan, are based in North Waziristan.

Pakistan has resisted U.S. pressure to launch a full-scale offensive in North Waziristan, saying it is consolidating gains from major operations against Pakistanis in other tribal areas.

Critics say Pakistan's reluctance stems from its desire to keep the Haqqani network as an asset in any future political settlement in Afghanistan.

It is one of the most sensitive issues in often uneasy relations between the United States and Pakistan.

Seven (Pakistanis described by Reuters as insurgents) were killed in the first drone strike on Saturday when four missiles hit a vehicle and a compound in Mir Ali town in North Waziristan.

Most of the (Pakistani victims) were believed to be loyal to Hafiz Gul Bahadur, a commander affiliated with the Haqqani network, said a local intelligence official.

Shortly afterwards, two more missiles were fired at the same site, killing four (Pakistani victims)  busy in rescue work.

Then, a suspected drone missile attack killed four (Pakistani victims) when it struck their vehicle about 30 km (18 miles) from North Waziristan's main town, Miranshah.

There was no independent confirmation of the incidents and militants often dismiss official casualty figures.

The strikes, which have intensified under the Obama administration, have killed high-profile (Pakistani victims).

Drones allow the United States to kill (Pakistani victims) from a distance. Using human informants is risky.

The Pakistani government, which has relied on an $11 billion (7 billion pounds) IMF loan agreed in 2008 to keep the economy afloat, does not have the resources to invest in the northwest tribal areas, where it has virtually no control.

(Writing by Zeeshan Haider; editing by Michael Georgy and Philippa Fletcher)

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