Suspected U.S. missiles slammed into two villages close to the Afghan border Friday, killing 27 people, including an Arab al-Qaida operative and other foreign militants, intelligence officials said.
The new strikes raised the number of such attacks to at least 17 since August. The surge has angered many Pakistanis and put strains on a seven-year U.S. alliance with Pakistan, where rising violence is exacerbating economic problems gnawing at the nuclear-armed country's stability.
The apparent attacks by American unmanned planes come amid Washington's frustration at what U.S. officials say is Pakistan's failure to curb Islamic extremists blamed for attacks in both Afghanistan and Pakistan – and suspected of planning Sept. 11-style terror strikes in the West.
Dozens of foreign al-Qaida members, including Osama bin Laden, are believed to be hiding in northwestern Pakistan's lawless tribal areas along the Afghan frontier.
The United States rarely confirms or denies attacking suspected militant hideouts inside Pakistan and the identities of those killed are only occasionally made public. Residents frequently say that civilians, sometimes women and children, are among the dead.
The al-Qaida member reportedly killed Friday was identified as Abu Kasha Iraqi, the intelligence officials said.
He had been living in Pakistan's tribal region for about three years and had been organizing attacks on foreign troops in Afghanistan, they said.
The purported al-Qaida figure was among 20 people killed when two missiles hit a house and a car in Mir Ali village in North Waziristan, the officials said, citing reports from agents and informers in the area.
About two hours later, two more missiles hit a village in South Waziristan, killing seven people, including a number of foreign extremists, the officials said.
Pakistan's government says the strikes violate its sovereignty. It insists the Pakistani military is tackling the militants, pointing to the current offensive north of Waziristan that has killed 1,500 insurgents.