American drone-fired missiles hit a vehicle traveling on the Pakistan side of the Afghan border on Tuesday, killing six militants from a group known to have signed a nonaggression pact with the Pakistani army, intelligence officials and a local tribesman said.
Two commanders from the network led by Maulvi Nazir were among the dead in the attack in the Birmal district of South Waziristan, the officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media.
One of them was Amir Hamza, Nazir's representative in a council that recently released a statement calling on militants to observe the reported pact in neighboring North Waziristan region, said Yar Mohammad, a local tribesman who had seen the bodies.
The Pakistani army has fought some militants along the Afghan border, but has cut deals with others, seeking to deflect their jihad into Afghanistan and away from targets inside Pakistan. Nazir is one of the most important leaders in that faction.
The U.S. has urged Pakistan to tackle all the groups in the northwest, saying they threaten not only Afghanistan but Pakistan. American missile attacks over the last four years have not differentiated between the groups, which share training facilities and the same militant Islamist ideology.
Islamabad criticizes the drone strikes publicly but the government is widely believed to have supported at least some of the strikes under the covert CIA-run program. That cooperation came under strain after the U.S. began widening its targeting to include militants with alliances with the Pakistani army.
The strikes, which began in earnest in 2008, have killed scores of militants, including foreign al-Qaida members involved in plotting attacks on the West and those battling American-led troops in Afghanistan. There were more than 150 attacks in 2010, and less than half that number last year.
Tuesday's attack was the tenth this year. U.S. official do not talk about the program.