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Pakistan deplores latest drone strike

LAHORE, Pakistan – Pakistan on Wednesday strongly condemned a U.S. drone strike in its tribal area in another sign that the future of what the Obama administration has called its most effective weapon against al-Qaida is in doubt.

There was no allegation that any of the six people who died in the strike in the Angoor Adda area of South Waziristan, near the Afghan border, were civilians. But Pakistan denounced it nonetheless.

“We have repeatedly said that such attacks are counterproductive and only contribute to strengthen the hands of the terrorists,” the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement. “Drone attacks have become a core irritant in the counter-terror campaign.”

The drone program, which uses unmanned aircraft to attack suspected militants in Pakistan’s wild tribal area, has been drastically reduced since late January, when Raymond Davis, a former Special Forces soldier working for the CIA, was imprisoned for shooting dead two Pakistani men.

After a record year in 2010 during which the U.S. conducted 118 drone attacks aimed at suspected terrorists, there have been just 22 so far this year, according to a tally kept by the New America Foundation, an independent research organization based in Washington.

The last attack prior to Wednesday was March 17, the day after Davis was released from custody after the families of the two dead forgave him after receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars in a so-called “blood money” settlement.