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MIRANSHAH, Pakistan (AFP) – A U.S. drone attack on Sunday killed at least six militants and wounded three others in the northwestern tribal area of Pakistan, officials said.

The attack took place in the Shawal area, some 50 kilometres (30 miles) west of Miranshah, the main town of North Waziristan which is a stronghold of Taliban and Al-Qaeda-linked militants along the Afghan border.

Four unmanned aircraft hovered above a village in Shawal before one fired two missiles at a compound just before sunset.

“The compound was situated around three kilometres from the Afghan border. Militants surrounded it after the strike,” a security official in Miranshah told AFP.

“Militants had gathered in the compound around the sunset time and the drone strike came as they prepared to break their fast,” he said.

Local security officials said the militants killed in the attack could be from Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, but their exact nationalities are yet to be ascertained.

“The identities of the militants could not be verified because the dead bodies were badly mutilated,” said an intelligence official.

Another security official in Peshawar confirmed the attack and said the targeted area is a hub for militants during the summer.

“The area targeted by the U.S. drones on Sunday is a hub for militants in the summer months. They migrate from other areas to Shawal because it is cooler,” he told AFP.

Attacks by unmanned American aircraft are deeply unpopular in Pakistan, but Washington views them as a vital tool in the fight against Taliban and Al-Qaeda militants in the lawless tribal areas along the border with Afghanistan.

The Pakistani government has repeatedly protested against drone strikes as a violation of its sovereignty.

But privately officials have been reported as saying the attacks can be useful in removing militants from the country.

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