Clashes, airstrikes leave 34 militants, five Pakistani troops dead.
The Pakistan military’s latest ground and aerial onslaught in the troubled northwest killed at least 34 militants on Saturday while five of its troops also died during clashes, security officials said.
The attacks come days after Army chief Gen. Raheel Sharif ordered his troops to begin the last phase of a bloody operation targeting militants in the country’s restive northwest along the Afghan border. Pakistan Air Force jets pounded militants’ hideouts in the northwestern tribal belt, killing at least 15 Taliban insurgents including six Uzbeks.
The strikes were carried out in the Maizer area of the Datta Khel region in North Waziristan, which is considered a stronghold for Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan militants. “As many as four hideouts were destroyed in the strikes this morning. Among the 15 killed militants were six Uzbeks,” a security official in the area told AFP.
Later in the evening, the military issued a statement saying its “ground forces surrounded a group of fleeing terrorists in the Mangroti area near the Afghanistan border in the Shawal region of the North Waziristan district and 19 militants were killed during the intense exchange of fire.”
“Four security forces personnel including an officer also embraced martyrdom,” the statement added.
A senior security official in Peshawar confirmed the strikes and clashes.
“The airstrikes have increased in the last few days and we have hit targets today also. We have hit the hideouts many times during the last few days,” said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
Also on Saturday, a Pakistani soldier was killed and two others wounded when their vehicle hit an improvised explosive device planted on a roadside in North Waziristan’s Datta Khel.
The Pakistan Army launched Operation Zarb-e-Azb under U.S. pressure in 2014 in a bid to wipe out militant bases in North Waziristan and bring an end to the near decade-long Islamist insurgency that has cost Pakistan thousands of lives.
The conflict zone is remote and off-limits to journalists, making it difficult to verify the Army’s claims, including the number and identity of those killed.