MIRANSHAH, Pakistan (Reuters) - A U.S. drone aircraft fired two missiles into a Taliban compound in Pakistan’s North Waziristan region on the Afghan border on Sunday, killing nine militants, Pakistani security officials said.
Separately, Pakistani army helicopter gunships killed 18 militants in raids in the northwestern region of Orakzai, a government official said.
The latest drone missile strike on militants was the second in northwest Pakistan since a failed bid to set off a car bomb in New York’s Time Square last weekend.
The attack was in Dattakhel village, about 60 km (40 miles) west of Miranshah, the main town in North Waziristan, a hotbed for al Qaeda and Taliban militants on the Afghan border.
“The compound has been destroyed completely. It’s been cordoned off by Taliban,” said an intelligence agency official in the region, who declined to be identified.
A military official said nine militants had been killed. There was no information about the identity of those killed, they said.
Some pilotless aircraft were still flying over the area, a villager told Reuters by telephone.
Pakistan publicly objects to attacks by CIA pilotless aircraft, saying they are a violation of its sovereignty and fuel anti-U.S. feelings, which complicate Pakistan’s efforts against militancy.
Unofficially, however, analysts say Pakistan is cooperating with the United States in identifying at least some of the militant targets attacked by the drones.
Last Monday, three militants were killed in a similar strike in North Waziristan.
The previous day, Pakistani Taliban chief Hakimullah Mehsud, who was reported to have been killed in a drone strike in January, appeared in Internet videos threatening suicide strikes in the United States.
Last year, a drone killed Pakistani Taliban chief Baituallah Mehsud, who was accused of assassinating former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, in South Waziristan near the Afghan border.
The United States, struggling to stabilize Afghanistan, stepped up its missile strikes in Pakistan’s northwest after a Jordanian suicide bomber killed seven CIA employees at a U.S. base in the eastern Afghan province of Khost in December.
Most of the attacks this year have been in North Waziristan.
Over the past year the armed forces have mounted campaigns against militant strongholds in the northwest, clearing several areas including the Pakistani Taliban bastion of South Waziristan.
Fighting in recent weeks has centered in the Orakzai region where helicopters attacked four places in Sunday.
“The air strikes were launched on credible information that militants were there. At least 18 militants were killed and six hideouts were destroyed,” said Khaista Akbar, a government official in the region.
There was no independent verification of the toll.
The violence comes as Pakistani and U.S. authorities are trying to determine the extent of involvement of Pakistani-based militants in the botched plot to bomb New York’s Times Square by a Pakistani-American suspect.
Pakistani investigators were trying to verify information provided by the United States that the suspect, Faisal Shahzad, 30, had visited South Waziristan, Interior Minister Rehman Malik said on Saturday.
The Pakistani Taliban last Sunday claimed responsibility for the attempted car bomb attack the previous day, but a spokesman for the militants on Thursday denied links with Shahzad.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said ally Pakistan had been cooperating on the investigation.
But she also said the United States had warned Pakistan of “severe consequences” if a successful attack in America was traced back to Pakistan.
Additional reporting by Hassan Mahmood; Writing by Kamran Haider; Editing by Robert Birsel and Sugita Katyal