ISLAMABAD – Two suspected U.S. drone missile strikes killed at least 13 people Wednesday in an area of Pakistan's volatile northwest teeming with militants suspected in a recent homicide attack that killed seven CIA employees in Afghanistan, intelligence officials said.
The lawless North Waziristan tribal area hit Wednesday is home to several militant groups that stage cross-border attacks against coalition troops, including the Al Qaeda-linked Haqqani network. Counting the latest strikes, suspected U.S. drones have attacked North Waziristan five times since the CIA bombing a week ago, killing at least 20 people.
The Obama administration has pressed Pakistan to crack down on the Haqqani network, but Islamabad has resisted, saying it has its hands full battling local Taliban militants waging war against the state. In response, Washington has stepped up drone strikes in the country's tribal areas near the Afghan border.
In the first attack Wednesday, a suspected drone fired two missiles at a house in the Datta Khel region of North Waziristan, killing seven people, said intelligence officials.
A second strike occurred as locals were retrieving bodies from the rubble of the house, killing six people, said the officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media. The identities of those killed in the attacks were unknown.
North Waziristan borders Afghanistan's eastern Khost province, where a Jordanian man duped CIA agents into letting him onto a remote base by leading them to think he would help track down Al Qaeda's No. 2 leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, officials have said.
Humam Khalil Abu-Mulal al-Balawi, a 32-year-old doctor, was allowed to enter without being closely searched and then blew himself up during a briefing, killing seven CIA employees and a Jordanian intelligence agent.
Mahmood Shah, a former security chief for Pakistan's semiautonomous tribal area, said he believes the drone strikes over the past week in North Waziristan are retaliation for the homicide attack against the CIA.
The Americans "have concluded that the Haqqani network is causing major problems in eastern Afghanistan, and they seem determined to hit the network, so we should expect more frequent attacks in North Waziristan," said Shah.
But Shah said the effectiveness of the drone strikes has been hampered by a shortage of human intelligence in the region.
Pakistani intelligence officials have said that at least 30 of their operatives have been killed over the past year in North Waziristan.
"Pakistan's intelligence ability is almost zero in the border region because of the high rate of killing spies," said Shah. "In such situations, these attacks are proving counterproductive and producing more militants."
U.S. officials rarely discuss the missile strikes, and although Pakistan's government publicly condemns them as violations of its sovereignty, many analysts believe the two countries have a secret deal allowing them.
A drone strike in August killed Baitullah Mehsud, the leader of the Pakistani Taliban, which have been leading a deadly insurgency against the Pakistani government from their sanctuary in the tribal areas.
The Pakistani army invaded the group's main stronghold in South Waziristan in mid-October, sparking a wave of retaliatory violence that has killed over 600 people.
Growing violence in Pakistan has not been confined to the country's volatile northwest.
A homicide bomber struck an army facility in the Pakistan-controlled portion of Kashmir on Wednesday, killing four soldiers and wounding 11 others in an area where such attacks are rare, said the prime minister of the region, Raja Farooq Haider.
The attacker detonated his explosives after guards stopped him at the gate of an army barracks near the town of Rawalakot, said police official Zubair Ahmed.
Kashmir is divided between Pakistan and India and claimed by both in its entirety. Most of the militants operating in the Himalayan region attack Indian targets because they seek to end New Delhi's rule. They use the Pakistani side to plot attacks, but rarely strike there.
However, on Dec. 28, a homicide bomber attacked a Shiite procession in Muzaffarabad, the capital of Pakistan-administered Kashmir, killing eight people and wounding another 80.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for Wednesday's attack in Kashmir.