Air strikes in North Waziristan kill 50 militants
Air strikes killed at least 50 suspected militants in their northwestern strongholds on Monday, intelligence officials said.
Two intelligence officials, who declined to be identified as they were not authorised to speak on the record, said Monday's air strikes took place at 10 a.m. in the Zoi Nari, Lataka, Mizer Madakhel and Shawal areas of North Waziristan. "Jet air shelling destroyed six militant hideouts and killed 24 militants hiding in this area," said one of the officials, adding that the dead included some foreigners.
A second official confirmed the deaths but declined comment when asked if the strikes were in retaliation for Sunday's attack in Punjab, which killed nine people, including the provincial security chief.
The deeply forested ravines of Shawal Valley and Datta Khel are a smuggling route between Pakistan and neighbouring Afghanistan, and are dotted with militant bases used as launch pads for attacks on country's security forces.
The Pakistani wing of the hard-line Taliban used to control all of mountainous North Waziristan, which includes the Shawal Valley and Datta Khel, and runs along the Afghan border. But the Pakistani military recaptured most of the region in a major armed operation launched last June.
Security forces had on Sunday carried out aerial strikes in Shawal Valley that killed 40 terrorists.
NATO forces had long urged Pakistan for such an offensive, saying Taliban safe havens in the country were being used to attack NATO and Afghan forces in Afghanistan.
Since May, the military has stepped up operations in Shawal Valley, where the Taliban still operates freely.
The area is a stronghold of Khan "Sajna" Said, the leader of a Taliban faction whose name the United States last year put on a sanctions list of "specially designated global terrorists". Most phone lines to the area have been cut and military roadblocks limit civilian movement. It is not possible to independently verify security forces' claims of attacks and deaths.
The Pakistani Taliban mainly fight against the government in Islamabad and are separate from, but allied with, the Afghan Taliban that ruled Afghanistan in the late 1990s before being expelled in a U.S.-led military intervention.
Both groups send fighters against Afghanistan's Westernbacked government. Afghan officials have said the army offensive has driven large numbers of fighters over the border, complicating the war in Afghanistan's east and north.