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Pak jets pound militant hideouts

Miranshah (Pakistan), June 16 (Reuters): Pakistani fighter jets pounded North Waziristan today, a day after the army announced the start of a full-scale drive to flush Islamist insurgents out of the volatile region bordering Afghanistan.

In a long-awaited military operation precipitated by a deadly insurgent attack on Pakistan’s biggest airport a week ago, Islamabad has deployed troops, artillery and helicopter gunships to fight insurgents in North Waziristan.

The Taliban and their ethnic Uzbek allies holed up in North Waziristan have both claimed responsibility for the June 8 commando-style attack on Karachi airport, which was seen as a strategic turning point in how Pakistan tackles the insurgency.

In a chilling message issued in response to the offensive, the Taliban said foreign firms operating in Pakistan would bear the brunt of their revenge.

“We are in a state of war. Foreign businesses, airline companies and multinationals should immediately sever their ties with Pakistan or they will have only themselves to blame for any damage,” said Pakistani Taliban spokesman Shahidullah Shahid.

The army said combat aircraft destroyed six hideouts in the Shawal sector of North Waziristan, home to some of Pakistan’s most feared militants and al Qaida commanders, early today.

“In these precise strikes, 27 terrorists were killed. There is no (civilian) population in the area,” it said.

“North Waziristan Agency has been isolated by deploying troops along its border with neighbouring agencies and FATA (Federally Administrative Tribal Areas) regions to block any move of terrorists in and out of the Agency.”

The army chief, Raheel Sharif, said the operation would continue until “all terrorists along with their sactuaries” were eliminated but gave no specific timeline.

“The operation is not targeted against our valiant tribes of North Waziristan but against those terrorists who are holed up in the agency and have picked up arms against the state of Pakistan,” an army statement today quoted him as saying.

The army imposed an all-day curfew in North Waziristan as the operation got under way and turned off mobile phone services to undermine the insurgency. Independent confirmation of the events or other details were not available immediately from a region where journalists are not allowed to operate freely.

 
 
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