Two missiles fired from American drone aircraft killed more than 30 people, including Qaeda and Taliban fighters, near the Pakistani border with Afghanistan on Saturday, according to a Pakistani intelligence official and residents of the area.
The missiles struck three compounds, including one where the leader of the Pakistani Taliban, Baitullah Mehsud, and foreign and local fighters loyal to him sometimes gather, the official and residents said.
Mr. Mehsud, one of the most feared leaders in Pakistan’s lawless tribal areas, was not among those killed, according to the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the press.
Mr. Mehsud, a Pakistani, has fought the government openly in the past, and government and intelligence officials say forces loyal to him continue to attack Pakistani troops in the Swat Valley and the Bajaur and Mohmand tribal areas. The previous government, led by Pervez Musharraf, accused Mr. Mehsud in the killing of Benazir Bhutto, a former Pakistani prime minister.
If Mr. Mehsud was the target of the attack in South Waziristan, it would be the first time that American missiles were aimed at him, the intelligence official said.
Missile attacks in Pakistan by remotely piloted aircraft operated by the Central Intelligence Agency have generally been aimed at foreign Qaeda fighters and Taliban guerrillas from Afghanistan, who take shelter in Pakistan between raids into their country to fight American and NATO soldiers.
A C.I.A. spokesman, Mark Mansfield, declined to comment on the reports of missile strikes on Saturday, as is the agency’s standing policy. A spokesman for Pakistan’s military was unavailable for comment.
Arab and Uzbek fighters were among those killed Saturday, according to the intelligence official and residents of the area.
The attack followed a visit to Pakistan last week by Richard C. Holbrooke, the special representative to Pakistan and Afghanistan, that was part of a review of American policy in the region ordered by President Obama.
During his visit, Mr. Holbrooke heard a litany of complaints about drone strikes, some of which have inadvertently killed civilians, making it harder for the country’s shaky government to win support for its own military operations against the Taliban.
It was unclear if any civilians where killed in Saturday’s strikes, which residents say also hit a madrasa.
The drone attack also comes after a statement on Thursday by Senator Dianne Feinstein, Democrat of California and the chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, that the aircraft take off from a base in Pakistan.
“As I understand it, these are flown out of a Pakistani base,” Ms. Feinstein said during a hearing.
The drone attacks, especially in the last six months, have increased anti-American sentiment in Pakistan to very high levels, and Ms. Feinstein’s statement is likely to further inflame the protests over them. Her statement was prominently covered by the Pakistani press on Saturday.
Although many Pakistanis have accused their government of giving quiet approval for the United States to strike in the tribal areas, they also assumed that the strikes came from Afghanistan.
In 2008, the American drones carried out more than 30 missile attacks against Qaeda and Taliban targets in the tribal areas, according to a report by the Council of Foreign Relations in Washington. Two missile attacks just days after Mr. Obama was inaugurated indicated that his administration, at least for now, planned to continue the policy of the Bush administration.
The compounds that were hit Saturday were in the village of Shwangai, near the town of Makeen. The village is about 60 miles from the Afghan border.
A resident of the area said that bodies were still being recovered from the debris hours after the attack.
The attack was the fourth in the area controlled by Mr. Mehsud, but none of the others were believed to have had him as a target. Most of these attacks have occurred since September, when President Asif Ali Zardari took power.