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Pakistani security officials say a U.S. drone attack has killed up to 12 suspected militants in a restive northwestern tribal area near the Afghan border.

The officials said U.S. drones fired several missiles on July 23 at a compound in the Shawal area of the North Waziristan tribal region.

The area is known as a haven for Taliban and Al-Qaeda militants focused on fighting U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan.

The CIA-run drone program is a key element of U.S. counterterrorism efforts.

It is highly unpopular in Pakistan where it is considered a violation of sovereignty which causes unacceptable civilian casualties.

Based on reporting by Reuters, AFP, and AP

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