3 militants killed in US drone attack in Pak

Islamabad: A US drone today targeted a building in the heart of the restive North Waziristan tribal region of Pakistan, killing at least three militants, officials said.

The unmanned spy planed fired two missiles at the building in the market of Miranshah, the main town of North Waziristan Agency, described by US officials as a hub for Taliban and Al Qaeda elements.

Officials were quoted by TV channels as saying that three militants were killed. A local journalist said on phone from Miranshah that the US drone carried out the attack at 3.30 am.

The building was destroyed and the strike damaged a nearby hotel and several other structures. The identity of the militants killed could not immediately be ascertained. The journalist said Taliban militants gathered at the site soon after the attack and removed bodies from the rubble. This was the second drone strike in the same region in nearly 10 hours. Four militants were killed when a drone attacked a vehicle near Miranshah yesterday evening.

The US has significantly increased drone strikes in Pakistan since a NATO Summit in Chicago ended last month without a deal on ending Islamabad?s six-month blockade of supply routes to Afghanistan.

There have been 10 drone strikes since the summit. The supply lines were shut after a cross-border NATO air strike killed 24 Pakistani soldiers in November last year.

On June 4, a drone attack killed 15 militants in North Waziristan. The dead reportedly included senior al-Qaeda leader Abu Yahya al-Libi. Pakistan summoned the acting US envoy on June 5 and lodged a strong protest over the drone strikes, saying the attacks were unlawful and a violation of the country`s sovereignty.

President Asif Ali Zardari yesterday told a visiting US Congressional delegation that the drone attacks were counter- productive and undermined cooperative between the two countries. According to statistics, the US has carried out 22 drone strikes in Pakistan`s tribal belt this year, killing nearly 159 people.