By S.H. Khan | AFP
US drone strikes targeting a militant compound in Pakistan's northwestern tribal area killed at least five insurgents on Sunday, security officials said, the second attack in 24 hours.
Two US drones fired four missiles at a house belonging to a militant commander in Wacha Dana town, 10 kilometres (six miles) west of Wana, the main town in the South Waziristan tribal district near the Afghan border, Pakistani security officials said.
"At least five militants have died. The house has been badly destroyed," a security official told AFP, on condition of anonymity.
Two other security officials confirmed the strikes. One intelligence officer put the toll at six dead.
Sunday's attack in South Waziristan was the second in as many days and comes amid an upsurge in drone strikes in Pakistan since a NATO conference on Afghanistan in Chicago last month.Washington considers Pakistan's semi-autonomous northwestern tribal belt the main hub of Taliban and Al-Qaeda militants plotting attacks on the West and in Afghanistan.
Pakistani-US relations went into freefall last year.
There were hit when a CIA contractor shot dead two Pakistanis and dented further by an American raid that killed Al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden and by US air strikes in November that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers.
After the air strikes, Pakistan shut its Afghan border to NATO supplies and ordered US staff out of an air base reportedly used as a hub for drones.Seven US drone strikes have been reported since May's Chicago summit, which failed to secure a deal on resuming the supply lines.
In March, Pakistan's parliament agreed to reset US relations on condition that Washington apologise for the troops' deaths and end drone attacks on its soil.
Pakistan has been incensed by Washington's refusal to apologise for the November air strikes and US officials have so far rejected Pakistani proposals to charge several thousand dollars for each alliance truck crossing the border.Islamabad, which is understood to have given its tacit approval for attacks on Al-Qaeda and Taliban targets in the past, has become increasingly vocal in its opposition to the perceived violation of national sovereignty.
Despite Pakistani criticism US officials are believed to consider the drone attacks too useful to stop them altogether. They have argued that drone strikes are a valuable weapon in the war against Islamist militants.
According to an AFP tally, 45 US missile strikes were reported in Pakistan's tribal belt in 2009, the year US President Barack Obama took office, 101 in 2010 and 64 in 2011.
The New America Foundation think-tank in Washington says drone strikes have killed between 1,715 and 2,680 people in Pakistan in the past eight years.