Pakistan Air Force fighter jets Thursday pounded suspected hideouts of militants in Akakhel area of tehsil Bara, the remote area of Tirah Valley in Khyber Agency, killing at least 21 terrorists, the army said.
As per an ISPR statement issued to media persons, the airstrikes were launched in the early morning that inflicted heavy human loss on militants, besides demolishing five of their sanctuaries. However, the casualties could not be confirmed by the independent sources.
The local tribesmen denied the report and said the suspected hideouts targeted in the bombardment had been evacuated before the action and no one was killed in the airstrikes. Agencies add: “The militants had established sanctuaries in Sepah and Akakhel and used to target security forces and local tribespeople,” said one security official, speaking on condition of anonymity, in a reference to areas of the Khyber region. Another security official said the dead belonged to Lashkar-e-Islam, an outlawed militant group active in the region. The group was behind Wednesday’s suicide attack on government-backed militia near the Afghan border in which seven people were killed, the official added.
The Taliban and another banned militant group, Lashkar-e-Islam, have taken refuge in Khyber Agency, the military said in a statement. Renewed airstrikes come against the backdrop of a broader military offensive in North Waziristan region on the Afghan border, where the Pakistan army has been battling to contain the insurgency since June. North Waziristan is a major base for the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (Pakistani Taliban), which began its campaign against the state in 2007. The United States has long called for action against militant groups in North Waziristan who have used the area as a staging post for attacks against Nato forces in neighbouring Afghanistan. Pakistan army says it has killed more than a thousand militants and lost 86 soldiers since the start of the operation.
But the toll and identity of those killed is difficult to verify because journalists do not have regular access to the conflict zones.
This week’s fighting concentrated around the remote Tirah valley in the region known as the Khyber agency, where militants and their Qaeda backers from across the mountainous area have been holed up since the start of the operation. The army maintains that it conducts air strikes only in response to militant attacks and never targets civilian areas. Reporting in those areas is restricted and the army’s version of events could not be verified independently. -nation