Five killed in US drone attack in Pakistan

At least five people were killed and six injured when an unmanned US aircraft attacked a house in Pakistan's border area near Afghanistan, officials said Wednesday, dpa reported.

The strike came as local and international media reported that Baitullah Mehsud , leader of Pakistan's Taliban militants, had died from an illness.

A security official said the pilotless drone fired two missiles at a house in a village near the town of Mir Ali in North Waziristan about midnight Tuesday.

The house, which belonged to a person identified by only his first name, Nawab , was demolished in the strike. Some unconfirmed reports said the US drone had come under fire from the building.

North Waziristan is regarded as a haven for Taliban militants and members of the al-Qaeda terrorist network. It has seen several US airstrikes in recent months, causing tension between the United States and Pakistan.

The forces of the two countries have exchanged fire on more than one occasion along the Afghan border. On Thursday, Pakistani border troops fired warning shots when two US Army helicopters allegedly passed into Pakistani territory.

On May 23, a US drone crashed in South Waziristan . Reportedly, it was shot down by tribesmen and troops.

In another development, Pakistan's Urdu-language GEO television and the US-based CNN news network, citing unnamed sources, reported that Mehsud , believed to be in his 30s, had passed away.

He suffered from high blood pressure and kidney disease, the GEO TV said, quoting Pakistani security sources.

However, his spokesman Maulvi Omar denied the reports. "He is in good health," he told BBC Urdu.

The Taliban leader's deputy and close confidant, Zulfiqar Mehsud , also said Baitullah Mehsud had participated Wednesday in traditional rifle shooting and motor racing during the Muslim Eid al- Fitr festival.

An army spokesman, Major Murad Khan, also said no confirmation was available of the militant commander's death.

Baitullah Mehsud , the leader of a united front of smaller Taliban groups called the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan, or Pakistan Taliban Movement, was blamed by Pakistan's previous government for the assassination in December of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, a claim he reportedly denied.

He has also been accused of ordering dozens of suicide attacks across the country over the past one and half years.

The ethnic Pashtun guerrilla commander is based in South Waziristan , a militant stronghold on the border with Afghanistan.

Meanwhile, one security officer was killed in another tribal district, the Orakzai Agency, when dozens of militants attacked two security checkpoints and blew them up.

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