KHYBER AGENCY - Agencies - The military attacked Taliban hideouts in Tirah Valley of Khyber Agency with fighter jets and ground forces on Thursday, killing at least 37 suspected militants and wounding over a dozen others, officials said.

Security sources said the fighter jets pounded suspected hideouts in mountainous areas of tehsil Jamrud and Bara. The targeted areas included Toor Dara, Wacha Waila, Dwa Toai and Sra Waila areas of tehsil Jamrud and Spaira Dam area of Bara.

It was the first time the military used airstrikes against militants since the Pakistani Taliban announced a ceasefire on March 1 to help peace talks. The Taliban said last week it was ending the ceasefire, complaining of little progress in negotiations with the government.

A series of militant attacks since then have killed seven people in the northwest. The offence was carried out in reaction of attacks in Islamabad, Badaber, Peshawar and Charsadda, the sources said. The airstrikes hit the areas, where the Taliban and the banned militant group Lashkar-e-Islam are active.

“First jet fighters were used early in the morning and then ground troops were sent to the area,” a senior security official in Peshawar told on condition of anonymity. “They are conducting a search and cordon operation and up to now at least 37 militants have been killed.”

Officials said ground troops also used heavy weapons to pound militant targets. Three children and a woman were also killed in the bombardment, locals claimed. Independent verification of the death toll among the militants was not possible, as journalists are not allowed to enter the area.

Lashkar-e-Islam, led by warlord Mangal Bagh, is feared for kidnappings and extortion in Khyber, one of seven tribal districts along the Afghan border. Another security official said the strikes targeted militants involved in bomb attacks in the northwestern town of Charsadda and on a fruit and vegetable market in Islamabad which killed 24 people.

Last year the security forces had cleared the Maidan area of Tirah Valley and repatriation of tribesmen displaced during that operation was still continuing. However, some areas especially the Koki Khel area is still under the control of militants and many displaced people are staying at refugee camps in Jamrud and other parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Pakistan began talks with the Taliban in February to try to end their seven-year insurgency, which has cost thousands of lives.

Government and Taliban negotiators met in Islamabad on Tuesday to plan a fresh round of talks and to try to persuade the militants to begin another ceasefire, a Taliban negotiator said. Since the Taliban began their campaign of violence in 2007, more than 6,800 people have been killed in bomb and gun attacks around Pakistan.