Air strikes in North Waziris­tan kill 50 mil­i­tants

The Pak Banker - - NATIONAL -

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.

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