MIR ALI, Pakistan -- A suspected U.S. missile strike hit a Taliban stronghold near the Afghan border Saturday, killing five alleged militants as they traveled in a vehicle, Pakistani intelligence and government officials said. At least three of the dead were believed to be foreigners.
The attack was the seventh this month and underscored America's increasing reliance on drone-fired missiles to take out targets it deems a danger to the war effort in Afghanistan. So far this year, nearly 100 such strikes have occurred in Pakistan, a major surge over previous years.
The three missiles Saturday struck their target just outside Miran Shah, the main town in North Waziristan. The lawless tribal area has been the focus of nearly all the strikes this year.
North Waziristan is believed to be a major Taliban and al-Qaida hide-out, and is a key base of the Haqqani network, an insurgent group deemed one of the greatest threats to American and NATO troops across the border in Afghanistan.
Two local intelligence officials and a government official confirmed the strike on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to media on the record. The U.S. rarely acknowledges the strikes, which are launched under a covert CIA-run program.
Pakistan officially protests the strikes as violations of its sovereignty, but it is believed to secretly share intelligence for many of them.