US drone attacks kill 18 suspected militants in Pakistan tribal area

EIGHTEEN suspected militants were killed yesterday in American drone attacks on three compounds close to the Afghanistan-­Pakistan border, Islamabad officials said.

The operations came just a day after a US diplomat was summoned to hear official protests against such attacks in the northwest tribal region.

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The drones struck North Waziristan, the main militant sanctuary in Pakistan and the target of an imminent Pakistani military operation. Hundreds of militants and their family abandoned North Waziristan in the past two days in anticipation of the operation, residents said.

The US has long demanded Pakistan target militants in North Waziristan and has welcomed the planned operation. But Pakistan is likely to focus on Taleban militants at war with the state, not those fighting the US-led coalition in neighbouring Afghanistan.

The suspected militant hideouts destroyed yesterday were hit within minutes and were located several miles apart in North Waziristan. The US has carried out seven drone strikes in the past week in the area, ignoring Pakistani protests that they violate its sovereignty. Yesteday, foreign ministry spokesman Moazzam Ahmad Khan called the attacks “illegal” and “unproductive” and a “violation of our territorial integrity.”