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Suspected US Drone Strikes Kill 18 in Pakistan

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Pakistani intelligence officials say three U.S. drone strikes have killed at least 18 militants in the country's northwest tribal region.

All of Monday's strikes were in South Waziristan, near the Afghan border. Officials say missiles hit a compound, an Islamic seminary and a vehicle near the main town of Wana. Foreign militants, including Arabs and Uzbeks, were said to be among those killed.

The attacks come just days after the reported death of senior al-Qaida operative Ilyas Kashmiri in a U.S. drone strike in same tribal area.

Pakistan's Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and Interior Minister Rehman Malik both said Monday they were confident Kashmiri is dead. But unnamed U.S. defense officials told new agencies they still have no confirmation of his killing.

The United States has designated Kashmiri a “Specially Designated Global Terrorist” and offered a $5 million reward for information leading to his capture. The al-Qaida operative is accused of involvement in several attacks on Western targets, the 2008 terrorist siege on the Indian city of Mumbai and the recent attack on a Pakistani naval base in Karachi.

This was the second time Kashmiri has been reported to have been killed. Pakistani officials said Kashmiri was killed in a suspected U.S. drone strike in September of 2009.

The United States has stepped up drone attacks since U.S. special forces killed al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden on May 2 in the Pakistani city of Abbottabad.

U.S. officials have never publicly acknowledged the use of drones inside Pakistan, but have privately confirmed the strikes to various news outlets.

Pakistani leaders protest the attacks as a violation of the country's sovereignty, but Pakistani intelligence is believed to provide the U.S. information for the strikes.

Article by VOA News