Two suspected US missile strikes targeting the same building killed eight people in a region near Afghanistan on Tuesday, including at least two people who were retrieving bodies from the first attack, Pakistani intelligence officials have said.
The strikes come in the final days of a year that has seen an unprecedented number of such drone-fired attacks as part of a ramped-up US campaign to take out al Qaida and Taliban fighters seeking sanctuary outside Afghanistan.
Around 115 such missile strikes have been launched this year – more than doubling last year’s total. Nearly all have landed in North Waziristan, a region that hosts several militant groups battling US and Nato troops in Afghanistan, including the feared Haqqani network.
The first strike on Tuesday hit a house in the Ghulam Khan area of North Waziristan, killing six, two Pakistani intelligence officials said.
The officials did not know the identities of those killed but said they were militants.
About three hours later, as people went to the site to pick up the bodies, more missiles hit the same spot. The intelligence officials said civilians may have been among those killed in the second strike.
On Monday, US missiles struck two vehicles in another part of North Waziristan, killing at least 18 alleged militants in two vehicles, intelligence officials said.
Pakistan officially protests the strikes, saying they violate its sovereignty and anger tribesmen whose support it needs to fend off extremists. But Islamabad is widely believed to secretly support the strikes and provide intelligence for at least some of them.
US officials rarely discuss the covert, CIA-run missile program. Privately, however, they say it is a crucial tool and has killed several top militant leaders. They also say the drone-fired strikes are very accurate and usually kill militants.
Information from Pakistan’s tribal belt is very hard to verify independently. Access to the area is legally restricted, and ongoing conflict there makes it dangerous territory.