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U.S. missile strikes kill 9 militants in Pakistan

MIRANSHAH, Pakistan (Reuters) - Two missile strikes by pilotless U.S. drone aircraft on Wednesday killed at least nine militants in Pakistan’s North Waziristan, a major al Qaeda and Taliban sanctuary, intelligence officials and residents said.

The first strike, made up of five missiles, targeted a militant compound and a vehicle in Mazoni village, about 10 km (6 miles) west of North Waziristan’s main town of Miranshah.

Two missiles were fired into Datta Kheil area, 40 km (25 miles) west of Miranshah, in the second attack.

“Nine militants have been killed, eight of them are foreigners,” an intelligence official said, adding that the nationality of the foreign militants could not be ascertained.

U.S. officials say the pilotless drones are one of the most effective weapons against militants. The strikes have killed senior Taliban and al Qaeda figures.

But they have caused resentment in overwhelmingly Muslim Pakistan, where anti-American feeling runs high.

Despite government assertions that the army and security forces have taken control of Taliban bases, militants still demonstrate the ability to attack a wide range of targets, from army headquarters to crowded markets, killing hundreds since October. Last week, six bombings killed 81 people.

The Pakistani government, an ally of the United States, wants the Americans to provide them with drone technology so the country’s military can carry out its own strikes.

While it insists on getting U.S. drone technology, Pakistan has launched two major offensives in the northwest over the past year against homegrown Taliban militants who want to topple the U.S.-backed government of President Asif Ali Zardari.

Elsewhere, a group of militants attacked a security checkpoint early on Wednesday on the outskirts of Peshawar, the provincial capital of the North West Frontier Province, killing three paramilitary troops and two policemen, said a police official.

Separately, security forces raided a militant hideout near the northern town of Pattan, killing five Pakistani militants, including three wanted in several attacks, military and government officials said.

In Karachi, Pakistan’s biggest city and commercial hub, four activists of a local political party were gunned down and one wounded in a drive-by shooting, senior police official Ghulam Nabi Memon said.

In southwestern Baluchistan, gunmen riding on motorcycles killed a retired paramilitary officer and two Shi’ites in two separate attacks on Wednesday, police said.

For decades, Baluch militants have been waging a low-level insurgency in the province for greater provincial autonomy and a larger share in the income from their natural resources.

Additional reporting by Gul Yousafzai, Ibrahim Shinwari and Faisal Aziz; Writing by Zeeshan Haider; Editing by Michael Georgy and Sugita Katyal