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U.S. Drone Strike Kills 18 In Pakistan, Security Officials Say

Pakistani security officials say that a United States drone strike has killed 18 suspected militants today in the northwest part of the country. The attack is the fifth of its kind in a week.

According to Reuters, the attack "targeted three walled compounds in the Shawal Valley, which is in the South Waziristan region on the border with Afghanistan." The AFP reports that officials say the area is known to be used by the Pakistani Taliban.

As we've reported on other occasions, the drone strikes are controversial and have caused strain between the countries. Pakistan says they are unlawful but the United States views them as an important weapon in its fight against the Taliban and al-Qaida, so it's been reluctant to give them up.

If you remember, it was a NATO airstrike that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers near the border with Afghanistan in November. That strike led to plenty of popular anger. In response, Pakistan shut down an important supply line into Afghanistan.

After a meticulously choreographed diplomatic dance that resulted in a carefully worded apology, Pakistan reopened the supply line in July.

But as The New York Times reports this new round of airstrikes is testing the relationship again. The Times adds:

"The attacks came one day after the Pakistani Foreign Office summoned an American Embassy official to protest earlier drone strikes in North Waziristan during the annual Id al-Fitr religious holiday, which ended on Wednesday.

"It was the eighth time in 12 months that the Pakistani government had issued a formal protest on the issue, a senior Pakistani official said.

"Although Pakistan and the United States patched up their differences over NATO supply routes in July, the drone strikes remain a major impediment to resuming normal relations between the two countries."

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Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.
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