Airstrikes kill 15 suspected militants in North Waziristan

— Reuters/File

PESHAWAR: At least 15 suspected militants were killed on Wednesday during airstrikes conducted by military fighter jets in the Dattakhel area of North Waziristan tribal Agency.

According to military sources, at least 15 suspected militants, including two key commanders belonging to Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) were killed in precision airstrikes carried out by the military.

Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) said in a handout that hideouts and ammunition depots were also destroyed during the airstrikes. However, these claims could not be independently verified as journalists have limited access to the restive tribal agency.

Khyber and North Waziristan are included in Pakistan’s seven semi-autonomous regions governed by tribal laws and lies near the Afghan border. The Taliban and other Al Qaeda-linked groups who stage attacks in both Pakistan and Afghanistan are also known to have strongholds in the zone.

Pakistan has been battling extremist militants in its semi-autonomous tribal belt since 2004, after the army entered the region to search for Al Qaeda fighters who had fled across the border following the US-led invasion of Afghanistan.

In June, the military began an offensive dubbed Operation Zarb-i-Azb against militant hideouts in North Waziristan after a bloody raid on Karachi Airport ended faltering peace talks between the government and Pakistani Taliban militants.

North Waziristan is a major base for the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), an umbrella group of extremist militants mainly based in the remote tribal areas.

The military 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.

The offensive has driven out over 800,000 residents from North Waziristan, where the army says it has cleared 90 per cent of the tribal region.

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