16 militants killed by US drones

US drones have fired four missiles at a compound of a Pakistani militant commander in a north-western tribal region, killing 16 militants, while a pair of bombings in another part of the country killed 10 civilians and three security personnel, officials said.

A government administrator in the Orakzai region, Salim Khan, said 12 other insurgents were injured in the drone attack near Biland village, bordering the North Waziristan tribal region.

Three Pakistani intelligence officials said the dead and wounded men were fighters loyal to militant commander Hafiz Gul Bahadur, who is based in North Waziristan.

Although US authorities often target militant hideouts in the country's North and South Waziristan tribal regions bordering Afghanistan, such strikes in other tribal regions like Orakzai are rare. The US rarely discusses the unmanned drone strikes, which are part of a covert CIA programme.

The strikes are extremely contentious in Pakistan, where many consider them an affront to Pakistani sovereignty. They also say the strikes kill innocent civilians, which the US denies.

The Pakistani government protested to the US Embassy in Islamabad about the drone strikes as well as another on Wednesday in which five people were killed.

"The embassy was informed that drone strikes on Pakistani territory were a clear violation of international law and Pakistan's sovereignty. These attacks were unacceptable to Pakistan," the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

Washington says the strikes are an important part of battling militants in the tribal areas, where Pakistan has been unable or unwilling to do so.

The latest drone attack came hours after a bomb at a crowded market in Pakistan's volatile south-western province of Baluchistan killed 10 people.