Air strikes kill 15 militants in North Waziristan


PARACHINAR: Air strikes carried out by security forces in northwestern Shawal Valley killed at least 15 suspected militants on Thursday, intelligence officials said.


A local security commander and two intelligence officials said that 15 or 16 suspected militants were killed in the Datta Khel area of North Waziristan.

The latest air strikes came only a week after security forces moved in on Taliban strongholds in the area.

Security forces have been using air force in the Zarb-i-Azb operation to soften targets.

The Taliban used to control all of North Waziristan, a mountainous region that includes the Shawal Valley and runs along the Afghan border. But the military launched an operation there last June and has recaptured most of it.

Nato forces had long urged Pakistan to carry out such an offensive, saying Taliban safe havens in Pakistan were being used to attack Nato and Afghan forces in Afghanistan.

Now locals believe that the military is gearing up for an operation in Shawal Valley, where the Taliban still freely operates.

The area is a stronghold of Khan “Sajna” Said, a leader of a Taliban faction whose name was added to a sanctions list of “specially designated global terrorists” by U.S. authorities last year.

There have been a number of air strikes in the Shawal Valley over the past week and two drone attacks, but no sign of a large ground offensive.

Most phone lines to the area have been cut and military roadblocks curtail civilian movement.

The army has been waging a major campaign against Taliban and other militant strongholds in the North Waziristan tribal area since June last year and authorities have now vowed to intensify operations both in border regions and across the country.

The deeply forested ravines of the valley are a key smuggling route between Pakistan and Afghanistan, and are dotted with Taliban bases used as launch pads for attacks on forces.