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The Mideast

U.S. Missiles Kill 16 in Pakistan

bomb_blast_Peshawar_pakistan_AP

June 5: Pakistani police officer and rescue worker examine the site of a bomb blast in a bus stand in Matani near Peshawar.AP

DERA ISMAIL KHAN, Pakistan -- The United States fired missiles at three suspected militant targets in northwest Pakistan on Monday, killing 16 people and keeping the pressure on insurgents days after a strike was believed to have killed a top Al Qaeda commander, intelligence officials said.

The identities of the dead in the unusually intense volley of drone-fired strikes in the tribal region of South Waziristan were not known, but several Arabs were said to be among the victims of one of them, according to the officials, who did not give their names in line with agency policy.

Since the U.S. raid that killed Osama bin Laden on May 2 in the Pakistani garrison town of Abbottabad, missile strikes have picked up pace from a relative lull in the year's first half. But anger at the bin Laden operation, seen here as a violation of Pakistani sovereignty, has led to fresh calls on Washington to stop the attacks.

The attacks Monday occurred in South Waziristan, where the Pakistani army launched an offensive in 2009 but where Al Qaeda and Taliban fighters still remain.

Before dawn, one set of missiles hit a compound in Wucha Dana village, killing seven people. The second set landed at about the same time at a Muslim seminary in the same village, killing five people, two Pakistani intelligence officials said.

The intelligence officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak on the record.

They said several Arab men were believed to be among the dead.

Later Monday, missiles hit a vehicle traveling in Dra Nishter village elsewhere in the region, killing four, official said.

Pakistani authorities said Sunday that they were increasingly sure that a Friday missile strike in South Waziristan killed Ilyas Kashmiri, a top Al Qaeda commander rumored to be a longshot contender to replace bin Laden as the terror network's chief.

Getting definitive confirmation about who died in the missile strikes is difficult, especially if no body is retrieved. U.S. officials have not confirmed whether Kashmiri died. Pakistani officials declined to comment on whether they had assisted the U.S. in the strike.

America says the missiles have killed hundreds of militants, including several top Al Qaeda commanders since they began in earnest in 2008. There have been more 30 this year, compared to last year's tally of around 130. Some experts question their legality and the secrecy under which they operate. Transparent investigations of alleged civilian casualties are not carried out.

Also Monday, the Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for a bomb that killed 18 people at a bakery in an army neighborhood in the northwest town of Nowshera the previous night. The militant group said the attack was vengeance for Pakistani army actions against them in the nearby Swat Valley.