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Drone attacks kill 9 in Pakistan, intelligence officials say

From Samson Desta and Nasir Habib, CNN
  • Missiles hit two towns in North Waziristan
  • The district has been a Taliban stronghold

Islamabad, Pakistan (CNN) -- Two suspected attacks by U.S. drones left nine people dead in Pakistan's tribal district of North Waziristan on Sunday, Pakistani intelligence officials said.

Four people died when rockets struck a vehicle carrying a suspected Taliban militant leader in the village of Lolai Piran Killay, near the district capital of Miran Shah, according to the intelligence officials. A later strike killed another five people in Data Khel, about 40 kilometers (25 miles) east of Miran Shah, the officials said.

The officials asked not to be named because they were not authorized to talk to the media. The first strike occurred about 7:35 p.m. (9:35 a.m. ET), with the second hitting about 25 minutes later, they said.

North Waziristan lies along the rugged border with Afghanistan. The district is a stronghold of Taliban factions battling U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, with insurgents targeting allied supply lines and mounting attacks across the border.

Sunday's attack in Data Khel was the third in that area since late October. A Wednesday airstrike by a suspected U.S. drone killed five suspected militants, while another three died in an October 27 attack, intelligence officials told CNN.

At least 88 drone strikes have hit Pakistani territory in 2010, well above the 2009 total of 52, according to a CNN count. U.S. officials normally do not comment on suspected drone strikes, but the United States is the only country in the region known to have the ability to launch missiles from remote-controlled aircraft.

Speaking during a visit to Pakistan's neighbor and regional rival India on Sunday, U.S. President Barack Obama said Pakistan was battling extremists. But he said progress was not "not as quick as we'd like," particularly in the difficult terrain of the border.

Obama said the Pakistani government understood the problem, which he called a "cancer" within its borders.