PESHAWAR, Pakistan -- Two American missile attacks killed 15 people Friday in a region in northwest Pakistan that has seen few such strikes in the past, Pakistani officials said, possibly signaling an expansion of the CIA-led covert war inside the country.
The missiles, fired by unmanned drones, hit houses in the villages of Spin Drag and Shandana in the Tirah Valley of the Khyber region, two Pakistani intelligence and two government officials said. The same valley, which is known to be home to Islamist militants, was hit late Thursday in another U.S. attack.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media.
It was unclear how many people were killed in each village, and the identities of the dead were not immediately known. Three attacks in 24-hour span is not unusual.
U.S. officials do not acknowledge firing the missiles, much less comment on who they are targeting. In the past, there have been occasional attacks in rarely hit areas of the border region, including at least one in Khyber.
One Pakistani official said the Khyber strikes were targeting Lashkar-e-Islam, a Taliban-affiliated network that has a strong presence in the region. The Pakistan army has fought the group this year, and officials have also reported its members have battled a rival extremist group in the region.
Most of the more than 100 missile attacks this year inside Pakistan have taken place in North Waziristan, which is effectively under the control of a mix of Taliban, al-Qaida and related groups. The region, seen as the major militant sanctuary in Pakistan, has yet to see an offensive by the Pakistani military.
On Thursday, President Obama urged Pakistan to do more in tackling extremists in the border lands. Pakistan's army has moved into several tribal regions over the last two years, but says it lacks the troops to launch a North Waziristan operation anytime soon and hold gains it has made elsewhere.
U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan Cameron Munter said the United States would like the Pakistani army to move into North Waziristan "tomorrow" but that he believed Islamabad's stated reasons for not attacking the region immediately.
"I think there is a capacity issue," Munter told reporters Friday. "There is a great amount of capacity being used in holding the ground the Pakistani army has won at great cost."
Pakistani officials protest the missile strikes, but are believed to secretly authorize and provide intelligence on at least some of them. Analysts also say targeting information for many of the attacks is likely to be provided by Pakistani intelligence officials.
Also Friday, police said nine people were killed by mortar rounds fired by suspected Sunni extremists in two attacks in the northwest. The presumed targets in Hangu district and the nearby tribal area of Kurram were Shiite Muslims, said Hangu police chief Abdur Rasheed.
In Hangu, three mortars missed a Shiite mosque, hitting a house, killing six and wounding eight. In Kurram, a mortar hit a house, killing three, he said.
Anti-Shiite militants in Pakistan predate al-Qaida and the Taliban, which are also Sunni. These days, the group are firmly allied and have overlapping memberships. They generally believe it is acceptable, even meritorious, to kill Pakistan's minority Shiites because they consider them heretics.