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Three Killed In Fresh U.S. Drone Attack In Pakistan

Three suspected Islamic militants were killed Monday afternoon in a U.S. drone attack in the lawless North Waziristan tribal region of northwest Pakistan, in the second such strike in 24 hours.

Missiles fired by the unmanned plane hit a vehicle in the Tapai Kalay area, 15 km. (about ten miles) east of Miranshah, the main town in North Waziristan Agency. The three occupants of the vehicle, believed to be pro-Taliban militants, were killed, officials said, adding that the vehicle was destroyed.

However, unconfirmed reports quoted some local residents as having said that four persons were killed in the attack.

This was the second drone attack in the region since Sunday, when seven Islamic militants, including four foreigners, were killed in a missile strike on a compound believed to be a training center for militants.

Two missiles reportedly struck a house in Noorak village on Mirali-Miramshah Road of North Waziristan Agency, close to the border with Afghanistan. The region is known to be a base for Taliban militants of the Haqqani network and al-Qaida members.

The drone attack came as U.S.-led NATO forces launched a major offensive early Saturday morning against the Taliban's last major stronghold in Marjah town in Afghanistan's most violent Helmand province.

The military offensive is codenamed "Mushtarak," a Dari word for "together," and the first test since President Barack Obama ordered 30,000 more troops to the south-west Asian nation in December. It got under way at 2 a.m. local time (2130 GMT), involving 4,500 U.S. Marines, and 300 U.S. soldiers, besides 1,500 Afghan troops.

The U.S. carried out more than a dozen drone attacks in Pakistan's tribal belt this year. The attacks were drastically increased after a Jordanian suicide-bomber killed seven CIA operatives in Afghanistan late last year. Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) chief Hakimullah Mehsud was reportedly killed in one such attack in North Waziristan mid-January.

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