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Latest drone strikes in northwest Pakistan kill 15

By the CNN Wire Staff
  • NEW: September's 11 drone strikes are the highest monthly total
  • North Waziristan is believed to be a haven for Taliban and al Qaeda militants
  • Majority of this year's strikes have been in the region
  • The United Nations wants the White House to disclose civilian deaths

Islamabad, Pakistan (CNN) -- Two suspected U.S. drone strikes killed 15 alleged militants in Pakistan's tribal region Wednesday, Pakistani intelligence officials said.

They were the latest in a series of aerial assaults targeted at insurgents in North Waziristan, one of seven districts in Pakistan's volatile tribal region bordering Afghanistan.

Seven missiles were fired on a suspected militant hideout in the Darga Mandi area, said two intelligence officials who asked not to be identified because they are not authorized to speak to the media. Two other missiles targeted a suspected militant hideout in the Data Khel area.

A CNN count of reports shows there have been 11 drone strikes in Pakistan so far this month, the highest monthly total for the country. The number of unmanned missile attacks in Pakistan this year now stands at 59, seven more than in all of 2009.

The United States does not comment on suspected drone strikes. But it is the only country in the region known to have the ability to launch missiles from drones, which are controlled remotely.

Security analysts have described North Waziristan as a haven for various factions of Afghan and Pakistani Taliban and al Qaeda militants. The majority of reported strikes this year have hit targets in the district, analysts said.

On Tuesday, two strikes killed 13 alleged militants. On Sunday, another five died. And last week, 29 suspected militants in the region were killed.

In June, the United Nations' senior official for extrajudicial executions, Philip Alston, said the United States should explain the legal rationale for the CIA's campaign of drone strikes in northwest Pakistan, which he characterized as "a vaguely defined license to kill" that has created "a major accountability vacuum."

Alston also urged the Obama administration to disclose the number of civilians killed in the drone strikes.

The civilian death toll has angered Pakistanis, less than a tenth of whom support the strikes, according to Peter Bergen, CNN's national security analyst.

The New America Foundation, a Washington-based think tank where Bergen is a fellow, said the drone program in Pakistan has reportedly killed more than 1,000 people since 2004. Many of the casualties were civilians, the foundation said.

CNN's Reza Sayah and journalists Nasir Habib and Nasir Dawar contributed to this report.