38 militants killed in air strikes in NW Pakistan

38 militants killed in air strikes in NW Pakistan

Pakistani combat jets carried out air strikes in the restive northwestern Khyber tribal region today, killing 38 terrorists, including some "important commanders", days after the government called off a peace process with the Taliban.

The air strikes in Tirah Valley, near the border with Afghanistan, came after talks with the banned Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan were suspended over the execution of 23 troops by a militant faction.

"In early morning strikes today on terrorist hideouts in Tirah Valley, Khyber Agency, there are confirmed reports that 38 terrorists, including some important commanders, were killed," a Pakistani military source said.

Six terrorist hideouts were destroyed by the strikes, the source said.

Military sources said a factory making IEDs and a huge quantity of explosives were destroyed in the attacks, which came a day after air strikes in Hangu district of Khyber- Pakhtunkhwa killed nine terrorists.

The military has gone on the offensive and carried out air strikes in North Waziristan and Khyber tribal regions that killed over 60 terrorists in the past week.

The civilian and military leadership jointly decided to launch the air strikes. The bombardment is part of surgical strikes which sources said should not be taken as a full- fledged military operation.

The government has been trying to engage the TTP and other groups in peace talks to end the decade-long insurgency that has claimed 40,000 lives. The TTP is an umbrella grouping of militant factions which has been waging a battle against the Pakistani state since 2007.

However, the peace process suffered a setback after a Taliban faction recently beheaded 23 paramilitary personnel abducted in 2010.

Government negotiators have made a ceasefire a precondition for another round of talks but TTP spokesman Shahidullah Shahid on Friday blamed Islamabad for the deadlock and asked the government to declare a truce first.

The military leadership took the government into confidence, citing potential threats from terrorists holed up in safe havens in the tribal belt.

Sources said the air strikes were aimed at protecting the people as militants were planning to carry out attacks.

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