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US drone kills militants in Pakistan

ISLAMABAD - A US drone struck militant hide-outs in northwestern Pakistan for the second consecutive day Thursday, despite calls by the Pakistani government to halt the covert CIA campaign.

Estimates varied on the number of fatalities. Seven to 10 people suspected of being militants were believed to have died, government officials and locals said.

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The drone strikes come at a time when diplomatic relations between the United States and Pakistan have worsened over Pakistan’s refusal to reopen NATO supply lines that were closed in November. Pakistan has been demanding a US apology over an airstrike that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers. In order to reopen the NATO supply lines, Pakistan’s Parliament has demanded an end to drone strikes, and the government is seeking a much higher transit fee for each NATO container.

Most of the militants killed in the strike belonged to the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, said local residents.

A strike Wednesday in the village of Datta Khel Kalai killed four suspected militants, the Associated Press reported, citing Pakistani intelligence officials.

The US drone strikes are immensely unpopular in the country and have caused increasing friction between the two countries. While the United States views the remotely piloted aircraft as vital in the fight against militants, the drones are seen as a breach of national sovereignty that also cause civilian deaths.

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