A pair of U.S. missile strikes killed five suspected militants in a Pakistani tribal region along the border with Afghanistan on Friday, intelligence officials said. The second strike apparently hit militants retrieving bodies from the first.
The missiles landed in the Spinwam village area of North Waziristan, a tribal region largely under the control of militant groups whose primary focus is battling U.S. and NATO forces across the border in Afghanistan. Pakistan has resisted taking action against insurgents in the territory, leaving U.S. missile strikes as the primary weapon against them.
The first strike Friday hit a vehicle carrying three militants in the village. A half hour later, a second pair of missiles hit two other militants on foot as they were apparently trying to pick up the remains of their colleagues hit by the first attack, said two Pakistani intelligence officials.
The exact identities of the dead were not immediately clear, but that area of North Waziristan is dominated by fighters loyal to warlord Hafiz Gul Bahadur.
The two officials spoke on condition on anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media on record.
The U.S. rarely acknowledges the missile strikes, which are part of a covert, CIA-run program. Pakistan officially protests them, saying they deepen anti-U.S. sentiment in the country and violate its sovereignty. But Islamabad is widely believed to secretly assist the program.
The two countries' relationship is currently under strain due to the arrest of an American CIA security contractor who shot dead two Pakistanis he said were trying to rob him. Pakistan has declined to release the man, who faces potential murder charges, even though Washington insists he has diplomatic immunity from criminal prosecution.
For nearly a month after the American, Raymond Allen Davis, was arrested, the missile strikes stopped, leading to speculation that the U.S. had backed off on the attacks to get Davis freed. But they have resumed in recent weeks, despite Davis' continued detention.