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U.S. Drone Kills Three In Pakistan; Bomb Kills Eight

DERA ISMAIL KHAN, Pakistan (Reuters) -- A suspected U.S. drone aircraft fired a missile killing three militants in northwest Pakistan, while elsewhere in the region, a bomb blast in a market killed eight people, officials said.

Nuclear-armed Pakistani is struggling to push back a growing Taliban insurgency and security forces have made progress in more than a month of fighting against Taliban militants in the Swat valley, northwest of Islamabad.

The militants have responded with a wave of bomb attacks.

Separately, the United States, alarmed by deteriorating security in Afghanistan, has been using drone aircraft to attack Taliban and Al-Qaeda fighters in northwestern Pakistani militant strongholds.

Pakistan, a nuclear-armed U.S. ally, objects to the U.S. missile strikes saying they violate its sovereignty and undermine efforts to deal with militancy because they inflame public anger and bolster militant support.

The strike on June 14 was in Laddah, in the South Waziristan region, about 60 kilometers north of the region's main town of Wana, and a stronghold of Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud.

"The missile destroyed the vehicle and I saw three bodies lying next to it," ethnic Pashtun tribal leader Habibullah Mehsud told Reuters by telephone from the region on the Afghan border.

A government official in the region confirmed the attack, saying drones had been flying over South Waziristan since early in the morning.

Pakistani warplanes struck another Mehsud stronghold on June 13 in retaliation for the killing of an anti-Taliban cleric in a suicide bomb attack in the city of Lahore the previous day, the military said.

The June 14 bomb attack was in a market in the northwestern town of Dera Ismail Khan.

Rising violence has raised fears for Pakistan's stability and for the safety of its nuclear arsenal but the offensive in Swat has reassured the United States, which needs its Muslim ally's help to defeat Al-Qaeda and stabilize neighboring Afghanistan.

On June 11, the U.S. House of Representatives approved tripling aid to Pakistan to about $1.5 billion a year for five years to help combat extremism through development. Pakistan is now the biggest recipient of U.S. aid.