At least 37 suspected militants killed in ongoing, targeted military operation.
The military attacked Taliban hideouts in the tribal northwest with fighter jets and ground forces on Thursday and killed at least 37 suspected militants, officials said.
It was the first time the military is known to have 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 airstrikes hit mountainous areas of the Khyber Agency, 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,” said a senior security official in Peshawar on condition of anonymity. Military sources said at least 37 militants were killed and 18 wounded in the operation. Officials said ground troops also used heavy weapons to pound militant targets.
Independent verification of the death toll and identity of the dead was not possible, as journalists are not allowed to enter the area.
The Taliban condemned the strikes and said they were “deeply anguished” but did not say the incident would derail talks. “This is the first attack since the extension in ceasefire has expired. If government is empowered and serious in negotiations we will continue them,” said TTP spokesman Shahidullah Shahid.
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 Charsadda and on a fruit and vegetable market in Islamabad that killed 24 people.