American drone strikes in Pakistan top 100 mark

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UNMANNED American drones have now launched more than 100 deadly strikes in Pakistan's lawless border region since Barack Obama came to power, a huge surge in the number of controversial raids against militants.

At least 36 people were killed in four strikes at the weekend, taking the total during Mr Obama's 18-month reign to 101, according to statistics compiled by the New American Foundation.

Analysts believe Mr Obama has widened the range of targets, using drones to take out al-Qaeda and Taliban footsoldiers as well as senior commanders.

But human rights activists in Pakistan said they were disappointed the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize winner had escalated the use of CIA drones - a tactic the United Nations says undermines the rule of international law.

Zeeshan-ul-Hassan Usmani, who monitors attacks for the Pakistan Body Count website, said the attacks created huge hostility to the US. "If you thought Barack Obama was going to be a different sort of president, he's doing what George Bush was doing - and worse - and it is we Pakistanis who are paying the price."

The latest strikes means the tally under Mr Obama dwarfs the 45 carried out in the preceding five years.

So far this year, there have been 50 strikes.

Increasing reliance on the unmanned, remote-controlled weapons has heightened fears covert tactics are being adopted as a mainstay of the battle against militants in Pakistan.

The drones are used to target fighters in remote mountainous hideouts from where they launch attacks on Nato forces across the border in Afghanistan.

Washington has branded the rugged tribal area a global headquarters of al-Qaeda and Mr Obama has described the region as "the most dangerous place in the World".