In the biggest attack so far by the American spy planes in the Pakistani tribal areas, the US drones on Tuesday rained a barrage of missiles on different locations of Dattakhel Tehsil of North Waziristan Agency (NWA), initially killing 17 people, including militants, and injuring several others. Now, the death toll has risen to 31 while some injured persons are still fighting for their lives, a private TV quoted sources as saying. Government officials in Miramshah, the main town of North Waziristan, said nine spy planes took part in the brazen attack, firing 18 missiles and causing heavy human loss. They had rightly feared the death toll could rise as rescue work could not be started for late in some of the places due to fear of more missile strikes by the unmanned spy aircraft. Besides the militants, several villagers and some foreign nationals were said to be among the victims. The villagers came under attack from the drones while approaching the spot to help retrieve the bodies and the injured from the rubble of the collapsed houses. Tribesmen in Miramshah said the town echoed with heavy explosions when the missiles were fired. They said a series of explosions were heard in distant villages of the restive North Waziristan tribal region. Officials said the Deegan village in Dattakhel Tehsil, where the Taliban last week claimed to have shot down a US drone, suffered the most. The drones fired eight missiles, hitting several houses and vehicles parked inside the mud-walled buildings. Deegan, which is located about 30 kilometres west of Miramshah, has always been the prime target of US drones. Deegan is considered to be a stronghold of the Taliban but we dont know whether those killed were militants or villagers, said a government official, who declined to be named. He said most of the targeted places were located in the mountains. After Deegan, Thooth Narray village in the same vicinity, also suffered when drones fired four missiles at targets there. Officials said four houses were attacked in the village, leaving seven people dead and six injured. Similarly, the US spy planes struck suspected hideouts of militants in Mohammad Khel and Khar Kamar villages. In Mohammad Khel village, a drone reportedly fired two missiles on villagers, who had come out of their houses after the first drone attack and were on their way to help retrieve the bodies and injured from the collapsed houses. Tribal sources said the drones had been flying over the area since early morning and the militants were seen firing at the planes from their anti-aircraft guns, which they had installed on double-cabin trucks. Officials said they could not gather exact details about human and material losses in Tuesdays attacks due to lack of physical presence of the government in the area. We dont have any physical presence in the area and then there is no telephone facility. We do have our security personnel deployed on their checkpoints on hilltops but they are away from the area where drones played havoc, a government official explained. An intelligence official said on condition of anonymity that the drones mostly targeted small posts set up by the militants. He said it appeared the US forces in Afghanistan wanted to avenge the loss of their drone, which the militants had allegedly shot down in the same area a few days ago. He said initial reports indicated that most of the people killed in Tuesdays missile strikes were either low-level militants or poor villagers. I did not hear that any big name had died, he claimed. It was the biggest missile attack by the CIA-operated spy planes in the tribal areas along the border with Afghanistan.