Suspected U.S. missiles kill six in Pakistan

MIR ALI, Pakistan -- Four suspected U.S. missiles slammed into a house in northwestern Pakistan on Sunday, killing six people in an area near the Afghan border teeming with local and foreign militants, intelligence officials said.

The strike, carried out by at least one unmanned aircraft, was part of the Obama administration's intensified campaign to use drones to target militants who regularly stage cross-border attacks against foreign troops in Afghanistan.

The house destroyed in the strike was located in Khaddi village in North Waziristan, part of the semiautonomous tribal region in Pakistan that is almost entirely controlled by militants, said the intelligence officials.

The dead included three militants and three local tribesmen who were harboring them, said the officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media.

The U.S. has carried out more than 100 drone strikes in Pakistan this year, roughly twice the number in 2009. The U.S. refuses publicly to acknowledge the covert CIA attacks, but officials have said privately that they have killed several senior al-Qaida and Taliban commanders over the years.

Almost all of this year's strikes have occurred in North Waziristan, an area in which the U.S. has repeatedly requested Pakistan conduct a military offensive. The Pakistani government has resisted, saying its military is already stretched thin by operations being conducted elsewhere.

Many analysts suspect, however, that Pakistan doesn't want to cross Taliban militants with whom it has historical ties and who could be useful allies in Afghanistan after foreign troops withdraw.

Pakistani officials often criticize the U.S. drone strikes, calling them a violation of the country's sovereignty. But the Pakistani government allows the drones to take off from bases within the country and is widely believed to provide intelligence necessary for the attacks.

Their cooperation does have limits. Pakistan recently refused a U.S. request seeking to expand the areas targeted by the drones because of domestic opposition to the strikes, a senior Pakistani intelligence official said Saturday, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media.

The official from the Inter-Services Intelligence agency would not specify which new areas the American side hoped to target, but an article in the Washington Post identified one as around Quetta, the capital of the southwestern province of Baluchistan, where Afghan Taliban chief Mullah Mohammad Omar is believed to operate.