A Pakistani police commando rushes to the site of an explosion in Karachi on Wednesday. (AP)
Islamabad, May 21: The Pakistani military said it killed at least 60 militants in aerial raids on terrorist hide-outs across the North Waziristan tribal region near the Afghan border early today.
The strikes were carried out in retaliation for recent terrorist attacks by the Taliban and came a day after Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and the head of the army, Gen. Raheel Sharif, met to review the security challenges facing the country.
“Confirmed militant hide-outs were targeted early morning today in North Waziristan through precision aerial strikes,” said a senior security official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “There are reports of 32 terrorists killed in strikes, including some important commanders.”
The military official said the strikes were carried out after security forces received intelligence reports that “terrorists involved in recent attacks” in Peshawar and two other areas were “in these hide-outs.”
The attack came almost two weeks after at least nine soldiers were killed in North Waziristan when a powerful explosion hit a convoy carrying security forces.
While the military denied there were any civilian casualties in today’s raid, local tribesmen claimed that at least 10 civilians were also killed in the strikes. The claims could not be independently verified.
The strikes prompted the local government to impose a curfew in the area for fear of possible militant reprisals against security forces.
The strikes were carried out in different parts of Miranshah and Mirali, two major towns in the restive North Waziristan tribal region, which has long been a bastion for militant factions.
“In Mosaki village in Mirali, a house came under attack during aerial shelling, killing 10 civilians inside,” Haji Ghulam Khan, a local tribal elder, said by phone.
“Initially, they carried out bombardment through gunship helicopters and jets, followed by intensive artillery shelling,” Khan said. “Local people are running for their lives towards the nearby hills.” The raid marked the second time that strikes had taken place since the Pakistani Taliban announced on April 16 that they were ending a 40-day ceasefire.
While the military has been eager to use force against the militants, the civilian government has insisted on holding peace talks with the Taliban. The peace talks grew out of an initiative announced on January 29 by Sharif, who said he would pursue a dialogue with the Taliban despite their attacks and growing calls in Pakistan for military action against them.
But peace talks between the government and the Taliban have faltered in recent weeks as both sides have accused the other of not taking the talks seriously. There has been no public contact between Taliban and government representatives since March 26.