DERA ISMAIL KHAN, Pakistan, (Reuters) – Suspected U.S. drones fired at least two missiles into Pakistan’s South Waziristan region on the Afghan border on Monday, killing seven people, intelligence agency officials and residents said.
U.S. forces in Afghanistan, frustrated by a spreading Taliban insurgency that is getting support from militant enclaves in northwest Pakistan, have stepped up strikes by pilotless drones despite Pakistani objections.
One missile hit a vehicle in a village near Wana, the main town in the region, killing four people, while three were killed in another strike in a nearby village, two Pakistani intelligence agency officials said.
“Tribesmen opened fire on the drones after the attacks,” a Wana resident told Reuters by telephone.
U.S. forces have carried out nearly 30 air strikes in Pakistan this year, according to a Reuters count, more than half since the beginning of September.
The attacks have killed more than 220 people, including foreign militants, according to a tally of reports from Pakistani intelligence agents, district government officials and residents.
Pakistan, under mounting international pressure to eliminate militants after last month’s assault on the Indian city of Mumbai, says the U.S. strikes violate its sovereignty and undermine efforts to fight militancy by inflaming public anger.
Pakistani forces and militants have been fighting fierce battles in the Bajaur region on the Afghan border and the military says more than 1,500 militants have been killed since August. There has been no independent verification of that estimate.
The military also has been battling militants in the Swat Valley, which is not on the Afghan border but in North West Frontier Provice, northwest of Islamabad.
Fifteen militants and two soldiers were killed on Monday in fighting in the valley, which until last year was a prime tourist destination, the military said in a statement.
A vehicle targeted in the drone attack was fitted with an anti-aircraft gun and the militants fired at the drone before the missile hit it, one of the intelligence officials said.
All of those killed were Pakistanis, one of the officials said. A third intelligence official said a third missile was fired but caused no casualties or damage.
South Waziristan is a known al Qaeda and Taliban stronghold.
The United States and Afghanistan have long pressed Pakistan to do more to eliminate the militant sanctuaries in remote ethnic Pashtun areas no government has ever controlled.
India has blamed Lashkar-e-Taiba, a militant group it says was set up by Pakistan to fight Indian rule in the disputed Kashmir region, for the Mumbai attacks.