Two separate missile strikes by unmanned U.S spy planes in northwestern Pakistan are reported to have killed at least 45 suspected militants. A similar attack a day earlier in the same area, which borders Afghanistan, had left at least 14 extremists dead. The drone attacks came as the Pakistan army said one of its air strikes has wounded the Taliban leader in the Swat valley.
The suspected U.S drone missile attacks targeted militants in the South Waziristan border region where the leader of the Pakistani Taliban, Baitullah Mehsud, is believed to have set up terror training camps.
Tribal witnesses and local officials say that the first strike took place before dawn and it hit a Taliban training camp. The second attack came hours later when several missiles targeted a large group of Taliban fighters traveling in another part of the border region.
The Pakistani government has also recently ordered its security forces to eliminate fugitive Taliban commander Mehsud and his network in the South Waziristan region. But leaders in Islamabad have opposed U.S drone attacks on their soil, saying they are undermining anti-militancy efforts and large numbers of civilian deaths in such strikes are fueling public anger.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Abdul Basit reiterated his country's stance while commenting on the latest missile attacks.
"We do consider them [U.S drone attacks] as violation of our sovereignty and we believe that these are not helpful in our long term strategy to fight against terrorism. We are allies in this fight against terrorism so we would like to resolve and bridge our differences and bridge our gaps in our positions through a continuous discussion process," he said.
Meanwhile, Pakistani army spokesman Major-General Atthar Abbas told reporters that the ongoing military offensive in the northwestern Swat valley and its neighboring districts has entered its final phase.
Speaking at a news conference in Islamabad, he said the top commander of Taliban militants in the valley, Maulana Fazlullah, had been wounded in an air strike this week and other key militant leaders are on the run.
The Swat offensive began in early May and has forced hundreds of thousands of residents from their homes.