PESHAWAR/MIRANSHAH - Air force jets pounded Taliban targets in a restive tribal area near the Afghan border Wednesday, killing at least 60 people including insurgent commanders, officials said.
According to the Inter Services Public Relations, the military’s media wing, the air strikes were carried out at 2:45am Wednesday. The jet fighters targeted hideouts in Issori, Hasso Khail, Harmaz and Mossaki areas of Mir Ali tehsil in North Waziristan Agency. Local tribesmen had been ordered to evacuate.
“As per reports so far, 60 hardcore terrorists including some of the important commanders and foreigners were also killed in the strikes and around 30 were injured,” ISPR statement said.
The military said those targeted in Wednesday’s operation were linked to recent bomb and suicide attacks around the country.
It also said that a “huge cache” of munitions were destroyed in the strikes.
After the airstrikes, Taliban met at an undisclosed location to reconsider a non-aggression treaty with the government, a report said.
In another clash, at least 11 terrorists were killed in Mir Ali of North Waziristan, said an ISPR spokesman. Four security forces personnel including an officer were also killed in the clash, he added.
The strikes will come as a fresh blow to stop-start peace talks between the government and the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), which have made little progress since they began in February.
Rahimullah Yousafzai, member of government peace committee, told the media that it would be difficult to continue peace dialogue as both government and Taliban are not agreeing on ceasefire.
On the other hand the political administration has imposed curfew in North Waziristan Agency for indefinite period of time.
Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf provincial information secretary Ayesha Gulali has expressed concern over the bombing and urged the federal government to start meaningful dialogue for durable peace in the region.
There have been a number of insurgent attacks on security forces in recent weeks and the air raids fit a familiar pattern of the armed forces responding by hitting the insurgents’ bases in the tribal areas.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s government began negotiations with the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) through intermediaries in February, with a ceasefire beginning March 1 but breaking down a month later.
Since the TTP launched their insurgency in 2007, more than 6,800 people have been killed in bomb and gun attacks around Pakistan, according to an AFP tally.
There have also been clashes between supporters of TTP commander Khan Said Sajna and followers of the late TTP leader Hakimullah Mehsud.
The group has long been riven by infighting and the feud began after Sajna, a senior commander, was rejected for the leadership following the killing of then-leader Mehsud last November, militants say.
Sajna had been seen as a strong candidate to become TTP chief following Mehsud’s death.
But the movement’s ruling council at the last minute elected Mullah Fazlullah, who hails from Swat and is believed to be hiding in Afghanistan.