Five people died Wednesday in an attack by a U.S. unmanned aircraft in northwest Pakistan, regional officials told EFE.

The drone strike took place shortly after midday in the tribal region of North Waziristan, near the Afghan border. The aircraft launched six missiles, a liaison official for the tribal regions told EFE from the nearby city of Peshawar.

It was at least the seventh U.S. drone attack this year in Pakistan and the cumulative death toll from the strikes has already topped 40.

The U.S. military mounted fewer than 50 drone strikes in Pakistan during all of 2012.

The use of drones escalated dramatically after U.S. President Barack Obama took office in January 2009 and reached a peak in 2010 before declining slightly in subsequent years.

North and South Waziristan are bastions of the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban.

U.S. officials insist most of those killed by drones are militants, using the term "militant" to designate any military-age male who is not proven to be a non-combatant.

Pakistani activists and Western analysts say hundreds of civilians have died in drone strikes. EFE