2 US missile strikes kill 12 in NW Pakistan

Two suspected American missile strikeskilled 12 alleged militants in a northwestern Pakistan tribal region Saturday, intelligence officials said, a sign the U.S. is unwilling to stop using the unpopular tactic despite heightened tensions between the two countries over recent border incursions by NATO.

The Pakistani Taliban, meanwhile, claimed responsibility for an attack on NATO oil tankers in Pakistan’s south, saying they were avenging the killing of three Pakistani border guards by NATO helicopters. In apparent retaliation for the killings, Pakistan has cut off a key U.S. and NATO supply line on its soil.

A surge in reported U.S. drone missile strikes in Pakistan along with NATO operations along the border suggest Western forces are cracking down on insurgents who easily move across the porous border between Afghanistan and Pakistan — something Islamabad has been slow to do despite pleas from Washington. Pakistan’s willingness to block the supply line amid public outrage, however, shows the leverage it has over the U.S. and NATO.

Four suspected U.S. missiles struck a house Saturday morning in Datta Khel village in the North Waziristan tribal region, killing eight suspected militants, the Pakistani intelligence officials said. Four other missiles hit a different house in the area later Saturday, killing four more suspected insurgents, they said.

Datta Khel is believed to be a hide-out for Taliban and al-Qaida fighters accused of targeting NATO and U.S. forces in Afghanistan. Those killed Saturday were believed to be insurgents working for warlord Hafiz Gul Bahadur.

The three intelligence officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk on the record to the media.

Over the past five weeks, the U.S. is suspected of launching at least 23 missile strikes in Pakistani territory, an unprecedented number. Western officials say some of the CIA-controlled, drone-fired strikes have been aimed at disrupting a terror plot against European cities.