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Dec 26, 3:30 AM EST

US missile strikes kill 7 militants in NW Pakistan


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DERA ISMAIL KHAN, Pakistan (AP) -- A suspected U.S. drone fired missiles at two compounds in Pakistan's North Waziristan tribal region Friday, killing at least seven alleged militants, while security forces killed the alleged planner of the deadly recent attack on a school, Pakistani officials said.

Four intelligence officials said the early morning strikes hit the compounds of the Punjabi Taliban and a group of Uzbek militants in the Shawal area of North Waziristan.

Two missiles struck the compound of the Punjabi Taliban in the village of Kund, killing four militants, the officials said. They said the compound was being used as a training facility by the group's commander, Qari Imran, but it was unclear whether Imran himself was present at the time of attack. The officials all spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief the media.

Minutes later, another drone-launched missile struck the compound of a group of Uzbek militants in the village of Mangrotai, killing three alleged militants, the officials said.

Drone strikes are largely unpopular in Pakistan where many consider them a violation of the country's sovereignty and resent the collateral damage caused to Pakistani civilians. But the U.S. insists these attacks are effective to eliminate militants in areas inaccessible to the Pakistani military.

Meanwhile, a top government official in the Khyber tribal region said security forces have killed the alleged planner of the recent school attack in the city of Peshawar. Security troops, acting on intelligence information, conducted a raid in the Bara area late Thursday night, where they fought a gunbattle with the militant commander known as Saddam and his accomplices, said Shahab Ali Shah, head of police administration in Khyber.

Shah said that Saddam was killed in the hour-long shootout, while his six accomplices were injured and arrested. He said Saddam helped plan the Peshawar school attack and was also involved in attacks on health workers giving polio vaccinations in the Peshawar valley.

On December 16, militants strapped with explosives broke into a military-run school in Peshawar, the capital of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, and killed 148 people - most of them children.

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