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5 militants killed in US drone attacks in Pak

Islamabad: US drones today targeted a compound and a vehicle in the lawless North Waziristan tribal region of Pakistan, killing five militants in the fourth such attack in six days.

The CIA-operated spy planes fired at least eight missiles at the compound and vehicle at Hassokhel, 25 km from Miranshah, the main town of North Waziristan Agency, which has been described by US officials as a stronghold of Taliban and al-Qaeda elements.

The drones struck early this morning and carried out two missile strikes on the target within half an hour, local residents said. Foreign fighters, including Uzbeks and Arabs, are believed to be present in the area that was targeted.

At least 23 militants have died in the drone attacks carried out in the past six days. Four militants were killed in a drone strike on May 26 while four more were killed in an attack near Miranshah on May 23. Ten militants, mostly foreigners, were killed in yet another missile strike on May 24.

The US has stepped up drone strikes after the conclusion of the NATO Summit in Chicago last week, where Pakistan did not make any announcement about ending a nearly six-month blockade of supply routes to Afghanistan.

The supply lines were shut after a cross-border NATO air strike killed 24 Pakistani soldiers in November last year.

The string of drone strikes have added to tensions between the US and Pakistan, which has described the attacks as a violation of its sovereignty and called for them to be stopped.

The US eased its drone campaign in Pakistan?s tribal area after a CIA contractor was arrested for shooting and killing two Pakistani men in Lahore early last year.

Washington has been pressing Islamabad to launch a military operation in North Waziristan Agency, which American officials have said is a safe haven for the Haqqani network that has been blamed for a series of brazen attacks on Western targets in Afghanistan.

Pakistan has been resisting US pressure to launch a sweeping offensive against militants in the area, saying its troops have been stretched by operations in other parts of the tribal belt.

US-Pakistan relations have been in free fall since last year, and Islamabad has been insisting that Washington should apologise for the NATO air strike.

President Barack Obama snubbed Pakistan at the NATO summit by refusing to hold a one-to-one meeting with President Asif Ali Zardari.

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