US drone kills six amid Pakistan anti-Taliban offensive

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(AFP) – A US drone strike killed six suspected militants Thursday in a Pakistani tribal district where Pakistan has launched a major military offensive against local and foreign fighters.

Local security officials said two US drones fired four missiles into a compound in Doga Macha Madda Khel, a village close to Datta Khel town.

The village lies 35 kilometres (22 miles) west of Miranshah, the main town in the lawless North Waziristan known to be a bastion of Taliban and Al-Qaeda.

Pakistan’s armed forces have been waging a massive assault on North Waziristan in recent weeks to eradicate hideouts militants have used to launch attacks across the restive nuclear-armed country.

The army says it is now in control of 80 percent of strategically important Miranshah, which officers said had become a virtual supermarket for jihadist fighters wanting to equip themselves with guns and explosives.

A local security official told AFP that Thursday’s drone strike had killed four foreign fighters and two local cadres who had fled Miranshah before the launch of the offensive.

“The compound and a vehicle parked inside were completely destroyed and killed at least six militants,” the official told AFP.

Doga Macha Madda lies in difficult, mountainous terrain which the official said the militants had hoped to use as cover.

Another security official in the northwestern city of Peshawar, confirmed the attack and the casualties.

It is the third round of drone strikes to hit northwest Pakistan since the US resumed the campaign following a six-month hiatus.

Washington reportedly suspended its drone programme in December to give Islamabad time to pursue a dialogue process with the Pakistani Tehreek-e-Taliban (TTP) aimed at ending a seven-year insurgency that has claimed thousands of lives.

But a spectacular, bloody attack on Karachi airport on June 9 that left dozens dead sank the peace efforts and prompted the army offensive.

US drone strikes resumed a few days after the Karachi attack, though Pakistani officials insist they have not given their approval.

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