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Five killed in U.S. strike in Pakistan: officials

PARACHINAR, Pakistan (Reuters) - U.S. drone aircraft have attacked suspected militants in northwest Pakistan, near the border with Afghanistan, killing five people, Pakistani officials said on Saturday.

Shots were also fired near the U.S. consulate in the northwestern city of Peshawar and an unknown number of gunmen were surrounded in a building but there had been no casualties, authorities said.

The drone attack, in the Kurram ethnic Pashtun tribal region, was the latest in a U.S. campaign aimed at eliminating al Qaeda and Taliban militants who base themselves in northwest Pakistan and attack U.S-led forces in Afghanistan.

“There were attacks in three different places on Friday evening,” said a government official in the region, who declined to be identified.

Two of the missiles hit vehicles carrying suspected militants. It was not clear if the three attacks were carried out by one or more aircraft, they said.

The identity of the five dead was not known while several suspected militants were wounded, the officials said.

U.S. ally Pakistan officially objects to the attacks by pilotless drone aircraft, saying they violate its sovereignty and enrage the Pashtun tribes in the lawless border regions, complicating its efforts to stamp out militancy.

But Pakistan has cooperated in planning at least some of the attacks, officials from both countries have said.

Several senior al Qaeda and Taliban leaders have been killed in the strikes, including the leader of Pakistani Taliban militants, Baitullah Mehsud, last August.

In Peshawar, the main city in the northwest where there have been numerous militant attacks in recent years, security forces had surrounded a building where gunmen who had earlier fired some shots were holed up, a senior official said.

The gunmen’s target was not immediately clear. The U.S. consulate and its staff have been attacked twice in the past couple of years.

“Everyone is their target,” said provincial government minister Bashir Bilour. “You are the target, we are the target, army, police, Americans -- all are their targets.”

Reporting by Javed Hussain and Faris Ali; Writing by Robert Birsel; Editing by Nick Macfie