US drone aircraft on Tuesday fired around 18 missiles into Pakistan’s tribal region near the Afghan border, killing at least 14 people, a security official said.

The strikes hit the Datta Khel area of the North Waziristan tribal district, a known stronghold of Taliban and al—Qaeda militants.

“Five to six drones fired 18 missiles at two houses and some vehicles parked there,” an intelligence official said. “Fourteen people are killed and half a dozen more injured.” The official said the death toll might rise as more people were thought to be buried under the rubble. The victims’ identities were not immediately known.

A second intelligence official confirmed the attack but said the drones targeted militant hideouts located on a hill.

North Waziristan, one of the seven districts in Pakistan’s lawless tribal region, is used as a base by many al—Qaeda and Taliban militants, who run training camps and conduct regular cross—border raids on NATO troop in Afghanistan almost without hindrance.

Unlike other tribal districts, North Waziristan has escaped Pakistan’s recent assault on Islamist insurgents, mainly because the militants there have a peace deal with the government under which they avoid attacking official targets.

But the pressure is mounting on Pakistan for an all—out offensive in the district, since Faisal Shahzad, a US citizen of Pakistani origin, admitted he received training in the region for last week’s attempted bombing in New York.

The US Central Intelligence Agency is conducting a covert drone bombing campaign against the militants and their hideouts in the region. More than 900 people, most of them militants but also many civilians, have died in over 100 airstrikes since August 2008.

Pakistan officially criticizes the drone attacks as a violation of national sovereignty that fuels public resentment. But many analysts say the country’s intelligence agencies secretly cooperate with the attacks by giving information about possible targets.

Keywords: Drone attacks

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