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U.S. launches first drone strike since deadly November attack

By the CNN Wire Staff
updated 4:57 AM EST, Wed January 11, 2012
Drone missions were halted last year after a set of controversial American strikes left two dozen Pakistani soldiers dead.
Drone missions were halted last year after a set of controversial American strikes left two dozen Pakistani soldiers dead.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Four suspected militants killed, according to Pakistani intelligence sources
  • The attack represents an apparent end to the pause in U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan
  • U.S strikes in November left 24 Pakistani soldiers dead, straining U.S.-Pakistan relations
  • The U.S. launches new drone attack against suspected militants in Pakistan

(CNN) -- The United States has launched its first drone attack in Pakistan after more than a month-long lull, killing at least four suspected militants, CNN has confirmed.

The drone fired two missiles on Tuesday at a suspected militant compound near the provincial capital of Miranshah in the North Waziristan region, located in the country's volatile tribal belt that borders Afghanistan.

It represents an apparent end to the pause in U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan, halted last year after a set of controversial American strikes left two dozen Pakistani soldiers dead at two mountainous border posts and further strained relations between the two nations.

Pakistan's military has repeatedly insisted that airstrikes that killed 24 of its soldiers on November 26 near the Afghan border were deliberate. Its government soon thereafter ordered the American military to vacate an air base used to launch drone strikes.

A U.S. investigation into the attacks blamed poor communication and "inadequate coordination" between both nations that prompted the deadly incident.

Brig. Gen. Stephen A. Clark said last month that a coalition team heading toward an Afghan village near the Pakistani border came under attack from "very direct and heavy" machine gun fire, as well as to incoming mortars.

The ground commander responded with a "show of force," with an F-15 jet and an AC-130 gunship making their presence known and dropped flares illuminating the area, Clark said. When the firing and mortars didn't stop, airstrikes were called in.

But Pakistani officials have argued that well-established operating procedures and an intricate system for operational information sharing were deliberately ignored, which led to the deaths.

The disagreement is thought to have further eroded the already fragile relations between the United States and Pakistan.

CNN's Barbara Starr and Pam Benson in Washington and Saboor Khattak in Pakistan contributed to this report.

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