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Drone strike in northern Pakistan kills more than a dozen people

A US drone strike in northwest Pakistan has killed more than a dozen people according to Pakistani intelligence officials. It's the biggest drone attack this year and second since Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif took office.

At least 17 people were killed Wednesday during a drone strike in the Sarai Darpa Khel area of the restive North Waziristan tribal region. Most of those killed in the attack were fighters for the Haqqani network, three Taliban commanders and security officials told the Reuters news agency.

A number of people were wounded in the attack, local tribesman Kaleemullah Dawar told Reuters, but rescuers did not immediately respond to the victims because of fears they would also come under attack. Attacks on first responders going to the aid the victims of a first hit, known as "double tap" strikes, are a common tactic of US drone warfare.

"It was not possible for the people to start rescue work for some time, as the drones were still flying over the area," Dawar said.

Drone tension

US drone strikes have become a source of tension between Washington and Islamabad. Sharif, who was elected in May, has called for an immediate end to the drone strikes and says they are a violation of Pakistan's sovereignty.

A drone attack in May killed the Pakistani Taliban's second-in-command as well as six others.

Wednesday's attack elicited a response from Pakistan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

"The Government of Pakistan has consistently maintained that drone strikes are counter-productive, entail loss of innocent civilian lives and have human rights and humanitarian implications," the ministry said in a statement.

"These drone strikes have a negative impact on the mutual desire of both countries to forge a cordial and cooperative relationship and to ensure peace and stability in the region."

US officials rarely comment publicly on the secret CIA drone program, though Secretary of State John Kerry said last month that the strikes only target "confirmed terrorist targets, at the highest level."

According to the New America Foundation, however, CIA and US military drone strikes have killed 3,364 militants and civilians over the last decade. The organization estimates that one in five people killed in US drone attacks is a noncombatant.

dr/hc (Reuters, AP, AFP)