March 25, 2009 / 2:47 PM / 10 years ago

U.S. drone kills at least 7 in Pakistan tribal area

(Changes dateline, updates death toll, adds details, background)

PESHAWAR, Pakistan, March 25 (Reuters) - A missile strike believed to have been launched by a U.S. drone aircraft killed at least seven militants, including foreigners, in a tribal region of northwest Pakistan on Wednesday, intelligence officials and Taliban sources said.

The strike occurred in Makeen, an area of South Waziristan known as a stronghold of Pakistan Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud.

"Two missiles struck two vehicles carrying militants and from information we have received, some guests were among the dead," an intelligence official in the region told Reuters using the common euphemism for foreign fighters.

The official who requested not to be identified said he did not know the nationalities of the foreigners.

U.S. drones have carried out more than 30 strikes since early 2008 when the United States, frustrated by an intensifying Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan getting support from the Pakistani side of the border, began attacking with greater frequency.

There has been no let-up under President Barack Obama’s administration, with seven strikes since Obama took office in late January.

Pakistan’s civilian government, elected a year ago, and the army have complained that the U.S. missile strikes are counterproductive and civilian casualties fuel support for the militants. The drones, which have mostly struck in the North and South Waziristan regions on the Afghan border, have killed several mid-level al Qaeda members.

Last week, the New York Times reported that the Obama administration was considering broadening its covert strike in Pakistan’s southwestern Baluchistan province bordering Afghanistan. (Reporting by Alamgir Bitani; Editing by Valerie Lee)

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