Pakistani soldiers fought with Taliban militants on Sunday over the wreckage of a remotely-controlled US drone which crashed near the Afghan border, intelligence officials said.
Pakistani security forces launched an operation against the Taliban on Sunday morning in a bid to recover the debris. At least two militants were killed, security officials said. One army officer was also injured.
The drone had crashed in South Waziristan, part of the lawless tribal belt that Washington calls a global headquarters of al Qaeda, the officials told AFP.
“The American drone crashed in Zangara village of South Waziristan, apparently because of some technical faults,” a security official in Peshawar said.
Zangara is 80 kilometres (50 miles) north of Wana, the main town of South Waziristan.
Two intelligence officials in Wana, the main town of South Waziristan, confirmed the incident. It was an armed Predator drone, they said.
The United States uses unmanned surveillance aircraft in its war against the Taliban in Afghanistan to monitor militants in Pakistan, from where al Qaeda and Taliban-linked fighters launch attacks in Afghanistan.
It also uses Predator armed drones to launch missile attacks aimed at militants in Pakistan’s unstable northwestern border areas.
US drone crashes are very rare in Pakistan, but a surveillance drone equipped with a camera crashed in southwestern Pakistan on August 25.
In September 2008, tribesmen in South Waziristan claimed to have shot down another surveillance drone in Jalal village, near the Afghan border.
The Pakistani army said at the time that it was investigating that incident but did not make the results of the probe public.
The US drone campaign is deeply unpopular among an anti-American Pakistani public and the government has publicly demanded an end to the attacks.
However, in private, Pakistani military and civilian leaders are thought to co-operate with the programme and Washington says it has been successful in eliminating a number of al Qaeda- and Taliban-linked militants in Pakistan.
Around two dozen drone strikes have been reported in Pakistan since elite US forces killed al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden in a suburban home near Pakistan’s main military academy in Abbottabad, close to the capital, on May 2.