A U.S. drone strike killed at least 10 people suspected to be Taliban fighters in Pakistan's northern tribal areas on Sunday, intelligence sources said, days after another drone strike killed a top militant leader in the area.
Between 10 and 12 people were killed in the attack on three compounds in Babar Pehari, South Waziristan, six intelligence sources said. More militants were believed to be in the compounds when they were hit, officials said, meaning the death toll may rise.
The compounds were believed to house fighters belonging to the Punjabi Taliban, a group with close links to al-Qaeda, intelligence officials said.
The Pakistan Taliban has established sanctuaries in the mountainous Babar area, 140 km (87 miles) northeast of Wana, the headquarters of South Waziristan, they added.
South Waziristan is controlled by the Pakistani army, which operates under an uneasy truce with militants from the local Wazir tribe.
Sunday's strike follows the death of Mullah Nazir, a Waziri militant leader, on Wednesday. Nazir supported attacks on American forces in Afghanistan but had signed two peace deals with the Pakistani army. On Sunday, thousands of his tribesmen protested against his killing.
Many Pakistanis say the drone strikes infringe the country's sovereignty, and are angry over civilian casualties they cause.
Others say the drones are the only way of killing militants who terrorise the local population in areas the Pakistani army is unwilling to patrol.
Drone strikes dramatically increased after U.S. President Barack Obama took office in 2009. There were only five drone strikes in 2007, but the number rose to 117 in 2010 before declining to 46 last year.
Exact casualty figures are difficult to verify. Most of those killed are militants, but some civilians have also been killed.