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U.S. Missiles Hit Pakistani Taliban, 12 Dead

MIRANSHAH, Pakistan (Reuters) -- Suspected U.S. drones have fired missiles into a Pakistani tribal region, killing 12 people, including five foreigners, in an area known as a stronghold of Pakistani Taliban commander Baitullah Mehsud.

Pakistani officials said the attack targeted a house in a remote village on the border between North and South Waziristan, where Mehsud, an Al-Qaeda ally, has been bottled up by Pakistani forces since early this year.

Frustrated by fighters from Pakistan fuelling the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan and fearful of Al-Qaeda regrouping, U.S. forces have intensified missile attacks by pilotless drones since early September, security sources say.

"We have reports that 12 people were killed, including five foreigners," a paramilitary official told Reuters by telephone from the area.

It was unclear if the dead foreigners included Arabs, who usually signify an Al-Qaeda presence.

A relative and aides to Mehsud, and Pakistani government and paramilitary officials said the attack happened at around 1:45 a.m., and up to four missiles were fired.

"There were two drones flying in our area and they fired four missiles," a paramilitary official in the area said. "They were American."

Missile-armed drones are primarily used by U.S. forces in the region, though the United States seldom confirms drone attacks. Pakistan does not have any.

Mehsud, who was accused of being behind the assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto last December, married a second wife in a ceremony held earlier this week in the Makeen area of South Waziristan.

"Around 50 guests attended the marriage. They were all his close friends. It was a simple ceremony," close aide Mufti Wali-ur-Rehman told Reuters.

His new wife is a madrasah-schooled daughter of a cleric from his own Mehsud tribe. Mehsud has no children by his first wife. Under Islamic custom, a man can take up to four wives.