Pakistani airstrikes kill 60 militants in tribal region near Afghan border, officials say

Ishtiaq Mahsud / The Associated Press
May 20, 2014 11:48 PM

A Pakistani police commando rushes to the site of an explosion in Karachi, Pakistan, Wednesday, May 21, 2014. A bomb rigged to a motorcycle exploded outside an office belonging to the Pakistani paramilitary forces in the southern city of Karachi, wounding seven civilian, said police official Javed Odho. (AP Photo/Fareed Khan)

ISLAMABAD - Pakistani warplanes and helicopters pounded militant hideouts near the Afghan border on Wednesday, killing 60 fighters, while a shootout between security forces and militants left four soldiers dead, the army said.

The airstrikes mainly targeted Mir Ali, a town in the lawless tribal region of North Waziristan, the army said in a statement. Hours later, "an encounter between security forces and terrorists took place" in Mir Ali, leaving 11 insurgents and four soldiers dead, the military said in a separate statement.

Earlier, the military said "60 hard-core terrorists" including "important commanders and foreigners" were killed in the strikes, without providing further details, and that another 30 were wounded.

One resident, who identified himself as Saeedullah Khan, said the army had also been firing artillery rounds since early morning.

"We heard big bangs," he said. "I saw some houses flattened."

Another resident, Inam Ullah, said the airstrikes destroyed several homes and nearby shops in Mir Ali's bazaar, causing civilian casualties.

The claims by the army and residents could not be independently verified. The restive tribal area is off-limits to foreign journalists.

A spokesman for Taliban commander Hafiz Gul Bahadur, who leads hundreds of fighters but has signed a non-aggression treaty with the Pakistani government, condemned the airstrikes and said his group had convened a meeting to consider withdrawing from the pact.

Ahmadullah Ahmadi said the group "cannot remain silent over bombardment on people."

The Pakistani Taliban are a loose network of militant groups, some of which are waging a war aimed at overthrowing the government and establishing their own harsh version of an Islamic state. Other militants use lawless regions of Pakistan as a base for attacking U.S.-led international forces and Afghan troops across the border.

The army said an investigation of recent attacks targeting civilians and security forces had led it to the militant hideouts.

Waziristan is part of Pakistan's tribal region, which is home to Taliban and al-Qaida-linked foreign militants who have killed thousands of people.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has been pursuing a policy of negotiation with the Pakistani Taliban to end the violence, but those efforts have not yet yielded any results.

Also on Wednesday, a bomb rigged to a motorcycle exploded outside an office belonging to Pakistani paramilitary forces in the southern city of Karachi, wounding seven civilians, police official Javed Odho said.

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Associated Press writer Ishtiaq Mahsud in Dera Ismail Khan and Adil Jawad in Karachi contributed to this report.


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