PESHAWAR, Pakistan - Three U.S. missile
strikes hours apart killed 18 people near the
Afghan border in northwest Pakistan on Saturday, two Pakistani
intelligence officials said.
At least nine people were
killed in the first strike when missiles destroyed a moving vehicle in
the North Waziristan tribal region, the officials said.
Two hours later drones
fired more missiles that struck people who had gathered to retrieve the
bodies, killing five. A third strike Saturday evening once again
targeted a moving vehicle in the Mohammed Khel area of North Waziristan,
killing four people, they said.
The identities and
nationalities of the 18 slain men were not immediately known, the
officials said. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were
not authorized to speak to reporters.
U.S. authorities often
target militants and militant facilities in the region, a hideout for
local and foreign insurgents who target U.S. and NATO troops in
neighboring Afghanistan. The latest three strikes came a day after four
missiles struck a convoy, killing eight.
An additional 35 were killed in similar strikes on Monday and Tuesday.
A total of 118 such
strikes, carried out by unmanned aircraft, were launched in 2010 in the
northwest border region, killing up to 2,100 people, according to the Washington-based policy think-tank New
Nearly all have hit North Waziristan.
publicly protests the airstrikes, saying they violate the country's
sovereignty and anger tribesmen whose support is needed to fend off
extremists. But Islamabad is widely believed to secretly support the
attacks and provide intelligence for at least some of them.
U.S. officials rarely
discuss the covert, CIA-run missile program. Privately, however, they
say it is a crucial tool and has killed several top militant leaders.
They also say the drone-fired strikes are very accurate and usually kill
militants while limiting civilian deaths.
Associated Press writer Rasool Dawar in Peshawar contributed to this report