A US drone strike killed three militants on Sunday in a restive Pakistani tribal region near the Afghan border, officials said.

The attack took place in the Dargamandi area, seven kilometres (four miles) north of Miranshah which is the main town in the North Waziristan tribal region.

The area is a bastion of militants linked to the Taliban and Al-Qaeda.

"A US drone fired two missiles on a militant compound, killing three rebels," a senior security official told AFP on condition of anonymity.

Another local official confirmed the attack and casualties. However, an intelligence official in Miranshah put the toll at four.

The area targeted by the drone is said to be the stronghold of Afghanistan's Haqqani network, a guerrilla faction linked to the Taliban.

US drone attacks are deeply unpopular in Pakistan, but Washington sees them as a vital tool in the fight against militants in the lawless tribal areas along the border with Afghanistan.

The Pakistani government has repeatedly protested against drone strikes as a violation of its sovereignty.

But privately officials have been reported as saying the attacks can be useful in removing militants from the country.

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