South Asia

Pakistan: US drone strike 'kills 15' people

At least 15 people have been killed in a US drone strike in the Pakistani tribal area of North Waziristan, officials say.

They told the Associated Press news agency that the attack took place in Shawal region near the Afghan border.

The US says North Waziristan is home to several militant groups involved in attacks on Nato forces in Afghanistan.

Officials say the drone fired five missiles, destroying a fortress-like militant compound in Zoi village.

A vehicle in the area was also reported to have been hit. Officials say the death toll may rise. They said all those killed were militants, but their group affiliations are still unclear.

The media are denied access to the area and independent confirmation of the claims is not possible.

The BBC's M Ilyas Khan in Islamabad says the area is controlled by militants of the Haqqani network as well a group led by Hafiz Gul Bahadur.

Spate of attacks

Shawal is a forested area between North and South Waziristan tribal regions. North Waziristan has been a regular target of drone strikes in the recent past.

But four of the last five drone attacks have targeted South Waziristan - a leading al-Qaeda militant, Ilyas Kashmiri, was reported to have been killed there in a US strike over the weekend.

On Monday three drone strikes killed at least 18 people in South Waziristan.

Militants have vowed to avenge Kashmiri's reported killing, as well as the killing by US forces of Osama Bin Laden last month.

United States officials do not routinely confirm that they have carried out drone attacks, but analysts say that only US forces have the capacity to carry out such strikes in the region.

More than 100 raids were reported last year in tribal areas along the Afghan border.

Many militants, some of them senior, have been killed in the drone strikes, but hundreds of civilians have also died. The strikes are hugely unpopular among the Pakistani public.