Pakistani Military Says It Killed 60 Militants in Raids

North Waziristan bombed (Credit:
North Waziristan bombed

ISLAMABAD, May 21 — The Pakistani military said it killed at least 60 militants, and injured at least 30, in aerial raids on terrorist hide-outs across the North Waziristan tribal region near the Afghan border early Wednesday. Local residents, however, said the dead also included women and children.

The strikes were carried out in retaliation for recent attacks by the Taliban and came a day after Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and the chief of the army, Gen. Raheel Sharif, met to review the security challenges facing the country.

“Confirmed militant hide-outs were targeted early morning today in North Waziristan through precision aerial strikes,” said a senior security official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to divulge details of the strikes.

The official said the strikes had been carried out after security forces received intelligence reports that “terrorists involved in recent attacks” in Peshawar and two other areas were “in these hide-outs.”

Another security official said that foreign militants were the main targets of the strikes. “Pakistani militants and foreign militants from Eastern Turkistan Islamic Movement were the targets,” the security official said.

There were unconfirmed reports that two Pakistani militant commanders were killed in the airstrikes. The tribal region that borders Afghanistan in inundated with local and foreign militants, and Pakistani state control is very limited.

The Eastern Turkistan Islamic Movement, also known as the Turkistan Islamic Party, is based in North Waziristan and is made up largely of Turkic-speaking foreign militants including Uzbeks and Muslim Uighurs from the oil-rich northwestern Chinese province of Xinjiang, which has seen an increase in violence recently. China blames the Turkistan Islamic Party for the attacks.

The aerial strikes in North Waziristan came almost two weeks after at least nine soldiers were killed there when a powerful explosion hit a convoy carrying security forces.

Though the military denied there were any civilian casualties in Wednesday’s raid, local tribesmen said that at least 10 civilians were killed in the strikes. The claims could not be independently verified.

The strikes were carried out around 2 a.m. in different parts of Miranshah, a town in the restive North Waziristan tribal region, which has long been a bastion for militant factions.

The strikes prompted the local government to impose a curfew in the area for fear of possible reprisals against security forces.

“In Mosaki village in Mirali, a house came under attack during aerial shelling, killing 10 civilians inside,” Haji Ghulam Khan, a local tribal elder, said by phone.

“Initially, they carried out bombardment through gunship helicopters and jets, followed by intensive artillery shelling,” Mr. Khan said. “Local people are running for their lives towards the nearby hills.”

A resident of Miranshah reached by phone, who asked not to be named, said that the death toll from the airstrikes was around 70, and that the dead included some women and children. He based his claim on contacts with local residents in Datta Khel, near Miranshah.

Phones went dead in most parts of the tribal region after the strikes and there was no independent confirmation of the number of casualties.

This was the second attack since the Pakistani Taliban announced on April 16 that they were ending a 40-day cease-fire. While the military has been eager to use force against the militants, the civilian government has insisted on holding peace talks. The talks grew out of an initiative announced Jan. 29 by Mr. Sharif, who said he would pursue a dialogue with the Taliban despite their attacks and growing calls in Pakistan for military action against them.

But dialogue between the government and the Taliban has faltered in recent weeks as each side has accused the other of not taking the talks seriously. There has been no public contact between Taliban and government representatives since March 26.

“The Taliban are ready for peace talks and very much serious, but the government side is lacking seriousness,” said Maulana Yousaf Shah, a Taliban representative. “At the moment, the government is the main hurdle.”

He said that the interior minister had announced a meeting between the negotiating committees of the government and the Taliban to discuss the prospects of the talks but that “so far nothing has happened.”

Separately, six people were shot dead by unidentified gunmen in southwestern Baluchistan Province, local news media reported.

Armed gunmen forced their way into the house of Abdul Hameed Baloch, a schoolteacher, in Dasht Chot village, about 25 miles (40 kilometers) from Turbat, a small town in the province, and opened fire at 4:30 a.m.

Those killed included two of Mr. Baloch’s brothers.

Baluchistan, a natural resources rich province, has long witnessed a simmering separatist movement, led by Baluch nationalists.

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