U.S. drone strikes kill 48 suspected militants in Pakistan

MIRANSHAH, Pakistan, (Reuters) – At least 48  suspected militants were killed by missiles launched by U.S.  drone aircraft in Pakistan’s northwest, local intelligence  officials said today, one of the largest death tolls to  date in the controversial air bombing campaign.
Coming a day after Washington announced an $800 million  delay in military assistance amid worsening U.S.-Pakistan ties,  the attacks could exacerbate tension between the two uneasy  allies in the war against militants.
The attacks started on Monday night, when remotely piloted  drones fired nine missiles into a militant compound and at a  vehicle in North Waziristan, killing 25 suspected insurgents,  local intelligence officials said.
Another strike hours later in South Waziristan killed five  suspected militants.
Then this morning, a drone fired two missiles at  another compound in North Waziristan.
“The missiles were fired as militants sitting in a vehicle  were entering into a house used by them as a hideout,” an  intelligence official said, adding that 15 militants were killed  in the strike. “The house is on fire.”
Three militants were killed in another strike in the same  region.
There was no independent confirmation of the death tolls,  and militants often dispute official death figures.
It was the second-largest death toll in a day in the  unacknowledged U.S. drone campaign against militants in  Pakistan’s northwest. In June 2009, about 70 suspected militants  were killed in a drone attack in South Waziristan.
Most of the strikes have been concentrated in South and   North Waziristan, mountainous tribal regions on the Afghan  border that shelter militant groups friendly with Pakistan but  who are attacking U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan.
“Of course the number of casualties is very high and it will  add to the already strained relationship,” a senior Pakistani  security official told Reuters.

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