Islamabad, Jan. 16: In an early morning air strike on a militant camp in the South Waziristan tribal area near the Afghan border, Pakistani security forces today killed 20 foreign and local militants.
Chief military spokesman Major General Shaukat Sultan said in Rawalpindi that intelligence reports had confirmed the presence of at least 25 to 30 foreign and local militants in Zamzola, South Waziristan.
Sultan said there was a precision air strike on a cluster of five mud-walled compounds, of which three were completely destroyed, and helicopter gunships mopped up. “Our ground forces didn’t participate in the operation and dead bodies and wounded were retrieved by locals,” Sultan said.
Fighters loyal to a pro-Taliban militant leader called Baitullah Mehsud were housed and trained at the compounds, according to intelligence officials. Mehsud’s fate was unknown.
Villagers in Zamzola said they were still searching the rubble for bodies almost 10 hours after that attack. They challenged the army’s claim that the strike was carried out by its helicopters.
“We saw a helicopter entering our area from across the border and flying back after the air strike,” a local tribesman told The Telegraph on condition of anonymity. He added that American helicopters attacked the compounds.
A reporter in North Waziristan saw seven helicopters, including at least two US-built Cobras, leave Tochi Fort’s helipad in Miran Shah, capital of South Waziristan, less than an hour before the attack and return shortly after.
The attack came hours after US defence secretary Robert Gates arrived in Kabul for talks with Afghan President Hamid Karzai.