PESHAWAR Pakistan (AP) — American missiles killed five suspected Islamist militants close to the Afghan border, the latest in a barrage of attacks that show Washington is ignoring Islamabad's demands it halt the strikes, Pakistani officials said Monday.
The uptick comes amid fractured relations between Pakistan and the United States over Islamabad's refusal to reopen U.S and NATO supply lines to neighboring Afghanistan that have been blocked since November. It indicates Washington's resolve to press ahead with the attacks, which have taken out many al-Qaida leaders close to the border since 2007.
Five missiles hit a vehicle and a house in Makeene Kili village close to the town of Mir Ali late Sunday, the officials said. The identities were not known, but the region is home to al-Qaida militants and insurgents fighting in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not allowed to give their names to the media.
The attack late Sunday in North Waziristan was the fourth in less than a week.
An American drone fired two missiles at a bakery in northwest Pakistan Saturday, killing four suspected militants. On Thursday, a suspected U.S. drone killed 10 alleged militants in northwest Pakistan near the Afghan border. On Wednesday four suspected militants were killed in the village of Datta Khel Kalai in North Waziristan.
Although the U.S. says little about the drone campaign publicly, privately American officials say the strikes are a vital anti-terror tool and have killed many senior al-Qaida and Taliban commanders.
Many Pakistanis view the campaign as an affront to their sovereignty, and the Pakistani parliament and government have called for an end to the drone strikes.
But in a reflection of Pakistan's complex relationship with the U.S., some figures within the Pakistani government and military are widely believed to have supported the attacks in the past. Security cooperation between Washington and Islamabad has declined as relations between the two countries have deteriorated, but many analysts believe there is still some support for the attacks on militants within Pakistan's senior ranks.
The uptick in drone attacks comes as the two countries try to negotiate new terms of engagement with each other after Pakistan cut off the NATO supply lines running through its territory into Afghanistan, forcing the alliance to seek alternatives through countries north of Afghanistan.
The two countries have been negotiating intently on ways to end the impasse, but appear to be stuck largely on how much the U.S. should pay to use Pakistani territory to transport its materials into Afghanistan.
Meanwhile, a government official says suspected militants attacked a passenger van in the Lower Kurram tribal region killing three people and injured six others.
Javedullah Khan said a group of Shiite Muslims traveling in a van from the mostly Shiite city of Parachinar to Peshawar came under attack in the Charkhel area when a group of four gunmen opened fire on the van. Three of the passengers died on the spot while six others, including two women, were rushed to the hospital. Two of the injured were in critical condition, said Khan.
Sunni Muslim extremists often target Shiites as they do not consider them to be true Muslims.
The road going from Parachinar was closed to general traffic in 2007 because it was so dangerous. People traveling between the two cities could only go in convoys protected by the Pakistani military.
An easing of tensions between Sunni and Shiite residents in the area allowed the road to be reopened earlier this year, but since then militants have attacked a number of Shiite travelers.
Associated Press writer Hussain Afzal in Parachinar contributed to this report.