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Suspected U.S. Drone Attack Kills Three In Pakistan


PESHAWAR, Pakistan (Reuters) -- A suspected U.S. drone has fired two missiles in Pakistan's South Waziristan region, killing at least three people in an area known as a stronghold of Pakistani Taliban commander Baitullah Mehsud.

U.S. forces in Afghanistan, frustrated by a spreading Taliban insurgency that is getting support from militant enclaves in northwest Pakistan, have stepped up strikes by pilotless drones despite Pakistani objections.

The missiles hit an abandoned girls' school being used by Taliban militants in a remote area 55 kilometers north of South Waziristan's main town of Wana, residents and Pakistani intelligence officials said.

"Two missiles were fired on the school and three bodies have been recovered from the rubble," said an intelligence official who declined to be identified.

It was the second strike in South Waziristan in as many days.

A suspected U.S. drone fired two missiles on January 1 into another part of South Waziristan, near the region's main town of Wana, killing three foreign militants and wounding one, two intelligence agents said.

U.S. forces in Afghanistan carried out about 30 missile strikes in Pakistan in 2008, according to a Reuters tally, more than half since the beginning of September.

The attacks have killed more than 220 people, including foreign militants, according to a tally of reports from Pakistani intelligence agents, district government officials, and residents.

Resident Hakeem Jan said four people, including foreigners, were killed and several wounded.

Mehsud has been accused by Pakistani authorities of being behind a wave of suicide attacks across the country, including the assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto in December 2007. He denied involvement in Bhutto's murder.

Pakistan, under mounting international pressure to eliminate militants after November's attacks on the Indian city of Mumbai, says the U.S. strikes violate its sovereignty and undermine efforts to fight militancy by inflaming public anger.
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