PESHAWAR, PAKISTAN — Amid an intensifying campaign of U.S. airstrikes aimed at Taliban and Al Qaeda figures, a missile attack Friday in Pakistan's tribal region killed at least 21 people, local and intelligence officials said.
At least two-thirds of those killed in the strike in North Waziristan were believed to be Islamic militants, but it was not immediately clear whether any senior figure was among the dead. Residents said they believed the attack was launched from a U.S. Predator drone. The unmanned aircraft have long been used against targets in the tribal areas, but such strikes have become much more frequent over the last two months.
News reports said 16 of the dead were "foreigners" -- a term usually used to describe insurgents from Arab countries or Central Asia. Two women and a child were also reported killed in the strike, the second of its kind in the tribal areas this week and the eighth in a month.
A Pakistani military spokesman, Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas, said he had no information about the missile strike.
U.S.-launched strikes in Pakistan are a highly contentious topic.
The country's new civilian leadership says it supports the war on the Taliban and Al Qaeda, but has also insisted that Pakistan's sovereignty be respected.
Tensions have been growing over the American attacks. In the last two weeks, Pakistani troops and villagers have fired at approaching U.S. aircraft at least twice. In Friday's attack, tribesmen fired in the direction of the Predator before it struck, witnesses said.
The U.S. strikes are extremely unpopular with Pakistanis, many of whom feel the Bush administration is running roughshod over their leaders. Anger peaked over a rare cross-border raid by U.S. ground forces Sept. 3.
The compound targeted Friday, in the Momadkhel district close to the Afghan border, was believed to be owned by two Afghan nationals. The area is about 12 miles west of Miran Shah, North Waziristan's main town.
Another strike this week killed eight people in the nearby village of Khushali Toori Khel.
Special correspondent Ali reported from Peshawar and Times staff writer King from Istanbul, Turkey.