US drones strikes in Pakistan follow aid cut

July 12, 2011 - 1:29 AM

DERA ISMAIL KHAN, Pakistan (AP) — Suspected U.S. unmanned aircraft fired missiles at a house in northwestern Pakistan on Tuesday, killing six alleged militants in the second such attack in less than 12 hours, Pakistani intelligence officials said.

The strikes follow on the heels of the Obama administration's announcement that it was suspending more than on-third of U.S. military aid to Pakistan because of strained ties. The two attacks indicate the White House has no intention of stopping a program that has increasingly caused tension between the two countries.

The house that was hit by four missiles early Tuesday morning was located in Dremala village in the South Waziristan tribal area, said the intelligence officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media. The village is located close to the border with North Waziristan.

On Monday night, a suspected U.S. drone fired missiles at a house in Gorvak village in North Waziristan, killing 12 alleged militants, said Pakistani intelligence officials, speaking on condition of anonymity for the same reason. The village is located very close to the Afghan border and is often used as a route for militants to cross into Afghanistan.

Pakistan's reluctance to target Afghan militants based in North Waziristan who stage cross-border attacks against NATO troops in Afghanistan has been one of the main sources of tension with the U.S.

Pakistan says its troops are stretched too thin by operations in other parts of the country, but many analysts believe the government is hesitant to cross militants with whom it has historical ties and could be useful allies in Afghanistan after foreign forces withdraw.

In response, the Obama administration has dramatically increased drone strikes in North Waziristan over the past couple of years and has also hit areas in South Waziristan. The U.S. refuses to publicly acknowledge the covert CIA drone program in Pakistan, but officials have said privately that the strikes have killed senior Taliban and al-Qaida officials.

Pakistan is widely believed to have supported the strikes in the past, even though officials often criticize them publicly as a violation of the country's sovereignty. But that support has become less certain in recent months, especially following the covert U.S. raid that killed al-Qaida chief Osama bin Laden on May 2 in a Pakistani garrison town not far from Islamabad.

The raid humiliated the Pakistani military, which was not told about it beforehand. U.S. officials said they kept Pakistan in the dark because they were worried that someone would tip off bin Laden.

The relationship between the two countries has spiraled down since then, and President Barack Obama's chief of staff, William Daley, said Sunday that the U.S. was suspending more than one-third — or $800 million — of its military aid to Pakistan until the two countries can patch up their relationship.

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Associated Press writer Rasool Dawar contributed to this report from Peshawar, Pakistan.