Peshawar: Pakistani fighter jets pounded militant hideouts in the lawless North Waziristan and Khyber tribal regions, killing over 40 militants including foreigners, days after the government suspended talks with the Taliban over the execution of 23 troops.
The air strikes, which mostly targeted hideouts in Mir Ali area of North Waziristan Agency, were sanctioned by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif himself. Air strikes were also carried out in Khyber Agency.
The precision bombardment was part of surgical strikes which sources said should not be taken as a full-fledged military operation.
At least 40 militants, including foreign fighters, were killed in the air strikes, Pakistani news channels reported.
“Militants involved in the bombing of a Peshawar cinema hall on February 13 and killing of an army major on February 18 were targeted in their hideouts in Bara area of Khyber agency today,” a military source said.
Sources said a factory making explosives and IEDs was destroyed in the air strikes in Khyber Agency.
Sources in the Pakistan government said that Prime Minister Sharif authorised the air strikes on Wednesday night.
The government has been trying to engage the banned Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan in peace talks to end the decade-long insurgency that has claimed about 40,000 lives.
However, the peace process suffered a setback a Taliban faction killed 23 paramilitary personnel abducted in 2010.
The military leadership took the civilian government into confidence, citing potential threats from terrorists holed up in their safe havens in the tribal belt.
The sources said the air strikes were aimed at protecting the people as militants were making plans to carry out attacks.
The air strikes came hours after the military in a rare move gave out casualty figures since an all-parties conference in September decided that talks were the way out to tackle the Taliban.
“Innocent people (308 civilians, 114 military, 38 police) have embraced martyrdom and 1,264 (684 civilians, 531 military, 49 police) were injured due to terrorist acts throughout the country since the all-parties conference,” a military official said.