Suspected U.S. Strike Hits Taliban; 3 Dead

People who fled fighting between Pakistani security forces and militants in the troubled northwest of Pakistan, take refuge in a school in lower Dir in Pakistan on July 10, 2009. (AP Photo/Ruhullah Shakir)
AP Photo/Ruhullah Shakir
A suspected U.S. missile strike hit a communication center of the Pakistani Taliban leader Friday, killing at least three people, intelligence officials said.

The attack was the latest in a string of similar strikes by suspected U.S. drone aircraft in recent weeks to target Baitullah Mehsud and his network of militants.

Two missiles struck a communication center late Friday belonging to Mehsud's group in the Painda Khel region of South Waziristan, three intelligence officials told The Associated Press, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.

South Waziristan is part of the lawless tribal region along Pakistan's border with Afghanistan, and top Taliban and al Qaeda leaders are believed to be hiding there.

The United States is believed to have launched more than 40 missile strikes against targets in the border area since last August, according to a count by The Associated Press. Washington does not directly acknowledge launching the missiles, which have killed civilians as well as militants and have contributed to anti-U.S. sentiment in Pakistan.

A suspected U.S. unmanned aircraft killed at least 45 people Wednesday in two attacks against militants loyal to Mehsud, a group also being targeted by the Pakistani military.

The convergence of U.S. and Pakistani interests in the South Waziristan tribal region suggests the two uneasy allies were cooperating in the strikes, making it harder for Islamabad to protest them publicly as it has in the past.

The army denied signing off on the attacks and insisted they were hurting its campaign against Pakistani Taliban chief Baitullah Mehsud by alienating local tribes it is trying to enlist in the fight.