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Drone strikes kill 18 in Pakistan; supply route still blocked

From Nasir Habib, For CNN
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Drone strike leaves 18 dead, border shut
  • NEW: Pakistan continues to block the border crossing
  • The attacks come amid an increase in drone strikes in Pakistan
  • The strikes occurred in Pakistan's tribal region

Islamabad, Pakistan (CNN) -- Tensions rippled through Pakistan's tribal region Saturday as three drone strikes killed 18 people and the government continued to block a NATO supply route into Afghanistan.

Pakistani intelligence officials said 10 people died in one drone strike targeting a militant hideout, four people died when a vehicle was struck, and four others were killed when another hideout was targeted.

All three occurred in the Data Khel area of North Waziristan.

The intelligence officials did not want to be named because they are not authorized to speak to the media.

While the United States is the only country in the region of Pakistan and Afghanistan known to have the ability to launch missiles from drones -- which are controlled remotely -- U.S. officials normally do not comment on suspected drone strikes.

Saturday's attacks come amid an uptick in drone strikes in Pakistan as insurgents fighting in Afghanistan have taken refuge across the border.

At Torkham, the main border crossing in Pakistan's Khyber district, queues of trucks and tankers formed at the border crossing, officials said. The supplies are all-important for the NATO-led war effort in Afghanistan.

We were asked by our seniors to block these supplies until further orders.
--Pakistani official
Video: U.S.-Pakistan tensions rise
  • Pakistan
  • North Waziristan
  • NATO

Pakistan halted the convoys Thursday after officials blamed cross-border NATO helicopter fire for the deaths of three Pakistani soldiers.

A senior Pakistani government official in Khyber told CNN on Saturday that NATO supplies are still not allowed to enter in Afghanistan and doesn't know when the main route for supplying 152,000 U.S. and NATO forces will open again.

"We were asked by our seniors to block these supplies until further orders and we can't allow it to go until we receive orders from our seniors," the official said.

A senior security official in the northwestern city of Peshawar also confirmed that convoys were suspended for third day but said negotiations to solve the problem continued.

NATO said aircraft had entered Pakistani airspace Thursday in self-defense and killed "several armed individuals" after the crews believed they had been fired at from the ground.

It was the fourth such strike this week by NATO helicopters pursuing militants into Pakistani territory in actions that have been condemned by the government.

The Pakistani government said it was investigating Thursday's incident in the Kurram district of the northwestern tribal belt, which Washington has branded as a militant hub.