WANA, Pakistan (Reuters) - Pakistani soldiers fought with Taliban militants on Sunday over the wreckage of a remotely-controlled U.S. drone which crashed near the Afghan border, intelligence officials said.
The Pakistani Taliban militants, who are close to al Qaeda, claimed they had shot down the aircraft over the South Waziristan region on Saturday. Security officials could not confirm the cause of the crash.
The Taliban have previously made similar claims which were never confirmed. The United States usually does not comment on the drone program it says is highly effective against al Qaeda and other militant groups.
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 injured.
Missile-armed drones have been playing a greater role than ever in U.S. counterterrorism operations in Pakistan's northwest, which President Obama has described as "the most dangerous place in the world."
Abu Hafs al Shahri, a Saudi national who had been the senior figure in al Qaeda's central command, was recently killed by a drone strike in the area, two U.S. officials said.
Drone strikes have been a major source of friction in ties between the United States and Pakistan, which are at their worst since U.S. special forces killed al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden in a secret raid in a Pakistani military town in May.
While Pakistan publicly opposes the strikes, it has privately allowed them and cooperated with the United States in determining targets.
(Reporting by Hafiz Wazir and Saud Mehsud; Writing by Qasim Nauman; Editing by Daniel Magnowski)