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US Strike Kills Up to 10 in Pakistan: Officials

PESHAWAR, Pakistan - A US drone fired missiles into a suspected militant camp in a Taliban stronghold of northwest Pakistan near the Afghan border, killing up to 10 people on Tuesday, security officials said.

It was the first attack from a suspected US spy plane since last Wednesday, when Pakistani and US officials believe Pakistan's Taliban chief Baitullah Mehsud was killed along with his wife at a family home in South Waziristan.

Both governments have stopped short of confirming the death of Mehsud, Pakistan's public enemy number one, and government officials have been drawn into an escalating war of words with Taliban commanders on his fate.

Tuesday's attack took place near the small mountain town of Kanniguram in South Waziristan, a stronghold of Mehsud, who is branded by Washington a key Al-Qaeda facilitator in Pakistan with a five-million-dollar bounty on his head.

The United States military does not, as a rule, confirm drone attacks, but its armed forces and the CIA operating in Afghanistan are the only forces that deploy unmanned aircraft in the region.

"Two missiles were fired by a US drone. It was a militant compound," a Pakistani government official told AFP on condition of anonymity.

"We have reports that more than 10 people were killed in the attack. It was a drone attack," one Pakistani military official told AFP.

Another senior security official confirmed that 10 suspected militants were killed, but a local government official had no exact death toll.

Kanniguram is seven kilometres (four miles) south of Laddah, the village where a suspected US spy drone fired two missiles into the house of Mehsud's father-in-law last Wednesday.

The United States military does not, as a rule, confirm drone attacks, but its armed forces and the CIA operating in Afghanistan are the only forces that deploy unmanned aircraft in the region.

Pakistan has in the past vociferously opposed drone attacks as a threat to its sovereignty, which risk whipping up a spiralling anti-American backlash that could destabilise the weak civilian government.

The government on Tuesday demanded that Taliban commanders release a video to substantiate their claim that Mehsud survived the US drone attack.

Hakimullah Mehsud, a top Taliban commander and deputy to Baitullah Mehsud, insisted that the warlord was alive and also denied reports of a deadly shooting between contenders for his succession.

"When Hakimullah can talk to Baitullah, he can also bring his video tape to contradict my claims that the Taliban chieftain is dead," Interior Minister Rehman Malik told reporters outside parliament.

Hakimullah on Tuesday spoke to an AFP reporter by telephone, saying that Mehsud would appear before the media in three or four days to prove that he was alive through "an audio or video message," he said.

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