US drone
The death toll from seven back-to-back strikes in the region during the past 24 hours jumped to 43. – Reuters Photo

MIRAMSHAH: At least 18 suspected militants and civilians were killed on Tuesday in what appears to be a surge in US drone attacks in the volatile North Waziristan, official sources said.

The death toll from seven back-to-back strikes in the region adjacent to the border with Afghanistan during the past 24 hours jumped to 43.

On Monday unmanned aircraft targeted three vehicles in Mirali tehsil, killing 25 suspected militants. The majority of those killed belonged to Orakzai Agency and Bannu district.

Local officials said that two missiles were fired at two suspected compounds at around 10am on Tuesday in Sherkhel area, an abandoned Afghan refugee camp in Ghulam Khan tehsil. Four people were killed.

The area people said that Kochis (Afghan nomads) lived in the compounds.

Local people were searching the place for survivors when the drone fired two missiles, killing four more people and injuring three others.

The names of the dead and wounded could not be ascertained.

In the third strike, a pickup truck carrying the wounded people from Ghulam Khan was targeted near another abandoned refugee camp called Nawab camp. Two missiles were fired in which four people were killed.

Sources said that two cars were heading towards the destroyed truck when the drone fired another volley of missiles, leaving another six people dead.

AP adds: The strikes come in the final days of a year that has seen an unprecedented number of drone attacks as part of a ramped-up US campaign to take out Al Qaeda and Taliban fighters seeking sanctuary outside Afghanistan.

Around 115 missile strikes have been launched this year – more than doubling last year’s total. Nearly all have landed in North Waziristan, a region that allegedly hosts several militant groups battling the US and Nato troops in Afghanistan, including the Haqqani network.