PESHAWAR, Pakistan — A US drone attack late on Sunday killed at least five militants in northwest Pakistan’s lawless South Waziristan tribal district, officials said.
The drone strike was the first since a US gunman shot and killed two Pakistanis in the eastern city of Lahore on January 27, triggering a diplomatic row between Pakistan and its key terror ally the United States.
“Five militants were killed in the strike,” a military official told AFP. “The target was a house used by militants,” he added, requesting anonymity.
An intelligence official who confirmed the attack put the toll at six dead and three wounded.
The unmanned aircraft fired three missiles at the house in Kaza Panga village, 15 kilometres (10 miles) west of Wana, the main town in South Waziristan.
Washington has been at pains to play down talks of a rift with Pakistan over the detention of Raymond Davis, a US diplomat who shot the two men in a busy Lahore street.
The US has argued that Davis, who claims to have fired in self-defence, should be released under diplomatic immunity.
It was not immediately clear if there were any high-profile victims in the latest drone strike on the tribal areas, which are close to the Afghan border and a key battleground in the fight against the Taliban and Al-Qaeda.
The United States does not confirm drone attacks, but its military and its Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) operating in Afghanistan are the only forces that deploy them in the region.
The US strikes are deeply unpopular among the Pakistani public, who see foreign military action on Pakistani soil as a violation of national sovereignty.
The death toll of at least five dead in the latest attack is small compared to previous raids.
A series of strikes on January 1 killed at least 15 people and destroyed a Taliban compound, according to Pakistani officials. That attack was quickly followed by several more, but there has been a comparative lull since.
Some observers have said that may be to do with Davis’s detention.
Missile attacks doubled in the tribal areas last year as the covert campaign was stepped up, with more than 100 drone strikes killing over 670 people in 2010 compared with 45 strikes that killed 420 in 2009, according to an AFP tally.
Pakistan tacitly cooperates with the bombing campaign, which US officials say has severely weakened Al-Qaeda’s leadership.
Washington says the strikes have killed a number of high-value targets, including the former Pakistani Taliban chief Baitullah Mehsud.