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US drone strikes are one of the most contentious issues between uneasy allies Pakistan and the United States, whose ties have been strained after bin Laden’s discovery in a garrison town. - File Photo

PESHAWAR: US missiles killed 18 militants in Pakistan’s tribal district of South Waziristan on Monday, destroying compounds and a vehicle in the deadliest drone strikes for months, officials said.

Three strikes were reported just days after Pakistani officials said they believed senior al Qaeda commander Ilyas Kashmiri had died in a similar attack late Friday, also in South Waziristan which borders Afghanistan.

Washington has called Pakistan’s semi-autonomous northwest tribal region the most dangerous place on Earth and the global headquarters of al Qaeda.

The first strike killed seven militants in the early hours in Shalam Raghzai, 10 kilometres northwest of Wana, the district’s main town.

A second slammed two missiles into a compound in Wacha Dana, 12 kilometres northwest of Wana, killing eight militants, Pakistani officials said.

The third struck the Bray Nishtar area, which lies on the border with North Waziristan at 10:45 am, about 30 kilometres from the site of the other two raids and about eight hours later.

“A US drone fired two missiles on a militant vehicle killing three rebels,” a senior Pakistani security official told AFP of the third attack.

Another official warned the death toll could rise further. The combined toll of 18 made Monday’s drone strikes the deadliest reported in Pakistan since a salvo of US missiles killed at least 35 people on March 17.

Initial reports suggested that some foreign militants may have been killed and that Pakistani Taliban were also targeted on Monday.

One of the demolished compounds was near a madrassa and just south of the Ghwakhwa area, where Kashmiri, one of al Qaeda’s most feared operational leaders, was reportedly killed days earlier.

Monday’s attacks bring to 12 the number of strikes reported in Pakistan’s tribal areas since US commandos killed al Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden in a raid in the garrison city of Abbottabad on May 2.

A barrage of US missiles killed 18 militants in Pakistan's tribal district of South Waziristan, destroying a vehicle and compouds Monday in attacks just hours apart, local officials said.