By Haji Mujtaba
MIRANSHAH, Pakistan (Reuters) - A U.S. drone attack in Pakistan's North Waziristan tribal region near the Afghanistan border killed four suspected militants Thursday, intelligence officials said, the second such attack in two days.
The unacknowledged Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) drone program, a key element of the U.S. counter-terrorism strategy in the region, was apparently halted after a November NATO cross-border air attack killed 24 Pakistani soldiers, sparking fury in Pakistan.
The U.S. campaign in Pakistan's unruly northwestern tribal areas along the Afghanistan border was resumed on January 10.
Thursday, an unmanned drone fired two missiles at a house believed to be a militant hideout near a market in Miranshah, the main town in North Waziristan.
"Taliban fighters had started hiding here in rented buildings and those killed are believed to be militants," one official said, requesting anonymity because he is not authorized to speak to the media.
Officials said the death toll could rise because of damage to buildings next to the one targeted by the drone.
Wednesday, a drone strike on another alleged hideout in a village near Miranshah killed 10 suspected militants.
Several militant groups, including the Afghan Taliban and al Qaeda, have a presence in Pakistan's border tribal regions, taking advantage of a porous border with Afghanistan to conduct cross-border attacks, or plot violence elsewhere.
North Waziristan is also an important base for the al Qaeda-linked Haqqani network, an Afghan militant faction allied with the Taliban, which the United States says is one of its deadliest adversaries in Afghanistan.
While the Haqqanis say they no longer need havens in North Waziristan and stay in Afghanistan, they are known to still maintain a presence in the Pakistani border region.
(Additional reporting by Jibran Ahmad in PESHAWAR; Writing by Qasim Nauman; Editing by Paul Tait)