By Saud Mehsud
DERA ISMAIL KHAN, Pakistan (Reuters) – A U.S. drone strike killed 11 Pakistani Taliban militants in northeastern Afghanistan, including six or seven senior commanders, intelligence officials said on Wednesday, hours after a strike killed at least nine militants in the same area.
The drone attack, late on Tuesday, was in Kunar province, near the site of fierce fighting on the Pakistani side of the border.
Fighter jets have been pounding positions in the Tirah Valley in Pakistan’s Khyber region and the military says it has killed scores of militants. At least seven soldiers have also been killed.
Earlier on Tuesday, a drone strike killed nine militants in the Nazyan area of Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province, to the south of Kunar. The intelligence officials said the nine belonged to the Pakistani Taliban and Lashkar-e-Islam, which announced an alliance with the Taliban earlier this month.
The Pakistani and Afghan Taliban share a similar jihadist ideology but operate as separate entities, with the Pakistani militants focused on toppling the state and establishing strict Islamic rule.
No one tracks drone strikes in Afghanistan – many of them take place in remote regions and are not reported – but Taliban commanders say that fighters there have been being increasingly targeted since late last year.
The strikes come amid warming relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan, traditionally hostile neighbors who each accuse the other of harboring insurgents to act as proxy forces.
Relations improved after Afghan President Ashraf Ghani was elected last year. Pakistan says it is supporting potential peace talks between the Afghan government and Afghan Taliban.