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U.S. Drone Strike Kills 12 In Pakistan

Homes destroyed in the drone attack targeting Baitullah Mehsud in Dera Ismail Khan on August 5
MIRANSHAH, Pakistan (Reuters) -- A suspected U.S. drone fired two missiles into Pakistan's North Waziristan region on the Afghan border, killing at least a dozen people, Pakistani intelligence agency officials have said.

The strike on Darpa Kheil village, about 2 kilometers from North Waziristan's main town of Miranshah, was the third such attack by a CIA-operated drone aircraft in Pakistan's ethnic-Pashtun tribal areas this month.

Pakistani and U.S. officials believe Pakistani Taliban chief Baitullah Mehsud was killed in a similar strike in neighboring South Waziristan on August 5, although his men have denied that.

"The attack caused a huge explosion that forced our doors open," said a Reuters reporter in Miranshah.

He said drones were heard flying over the area after the blast.

An intelligence official in the region said 12 people were killed in the attack targeting a house while another put the death toll at 15 and said most were Afghans.

The first intelligence agency official said the dead included eight women and children.

The house was close to a sprawling madrasah, or religious school, set up by Jalaluddin Haqqani, a former veteran Afghan militant commander who is also a senior Taliban leader.

Haqqani was in the past known to be close to Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

'We Took Out' Mehsud

Pilotless U.S. drone aircraft attacked Haqqani's complex in September last year, killing 23 people, most of them members of his family.

Haqqani is now elderly and his son, Sirajuddin, is commanding his fighters, U.S. and Pakistani security officials say.

While Mehsud has focused his attacks against Pakistan and its security forces, Haqqani's fighters have concentrated their militant activity in Afghanistan, and are not known for attacks in Pakistan.

Both Pakistani and U.S. officials have said Mehsud was killed in the August 5 attack in his South Waziristan stronghold although neither government has officially confirmed his death.

U.S. President Barack Obama said on August 20 "we took out" Mehsud, who was blamed for a wave of bombings across Pakistan, including the 2007 assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.

U.S. ally Pakistan officially objects to the U.S. drone strikes on its soil saying they violate its sovereignty and complicate its efforts to win over the people and isolate the militants in border regions.

After the August 21 strike, fighting erupted as militants attacked a security force check post in the area in which two soldiers were wounded, the security officials said.

Separately, five people, three of them policemen, were wounded when two men on a motorcycle threw a grenade at a police check post in Rawalpindi, a garrison city adjoining Islamabad, late on August 20.