Suspected U.S. missiles killed seven alleged militants, including some thought to be of Arab origin, in a Pakistani tribal region along the Afghan border early Monday, Pakistani intelligence officials said.
The strike was the first since the arrest of a U.S. Embassy employee who shot two Pakistanis in late January. There had been speculation that Washington had put a hold on the disputed tactic as it wrestled with Pakistan over whether the American has diplomatic immunity and should be freed.
The Pakistani intelligence officials said three missiles hit a house overnight Monday in the village of Kaza Panga in the Azam Warsak area of South Waziristan tribal region. Arabs and Turkmen were believed to be among the dead, the officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to speak to reporters on the record.
Pakistan's tribal regions are key hideouts for Taliban and al-Qaida fighters, including many from other countries. While Pakistan's military has waged offensives in various parts of the northwest, the U.S. has also used drone-fired missiles to target insurgents there.
Most of the missiles hit North Waziristan, a region populated with several militant groups whose primary focus is attacking U.S. and NATO troops across the border in Afghanistan. The Pakistani military has not taken action in that area because it says its priority is tame militant groups launching attacks on Pakistan's soil.
Nonetheless, the U.S. strikes do occasionally hit other parts of the tribal regions, typically South Waziristan.
The frequency of the missile strikes - often more than one a week - dropped to zero after American Raymond Davis was detained for shooting two Pakistanis in the eastern city of Lahore on Jan. 27. The U.S. has demanded his release, arguing Davis was acting in self-defense against robbers and has diplomatic immunity from prosecution because he works for the U.S. Embassy.
The U.S. rarely acknowledges the covert, CIA-run missile program, and it was never clear whether the Davis incident had any direct impact on the lull in missile strikes. But observers have speculated Washington may have been holding back on the strikes to avoid further angering a population already riveted by the Davis arrest.
Pakistan's government publicly denounces the missile strikes as violations of its sovereignty, but is believed to secretly support the program. Wary of public opinion, however, Islamabad has strained its ties with the U.S. by refusing to verify whether Davis is a diplomat. Officials here say the matter is up to the courts, where police say they want to pursue murder charges against the American.