Fighter jets bombed hideouts of suspected militants in North Waziristan last night, killing 40 insurgents including foreign nationals, security officials said on Thursday.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif authorised the air strikes, a source in his office said – a possible sign he was finally giving in to pressure from the military for tougher military action against the militants.
“After restraining the army for three days, the prime minister himself authorised the strikes last night,” the government official told Reuters.
An intelligence official said that six different locations were bombed. Another official said among the army’s targets were training camps run by Uzbek and Turkmen fighters.
Express News reported that Mir Ali, Shawal and Datta Khel sub-districts of North Waziristan were targeted in the bombardment.
According to sources, many of the hideouts, weapons and explosives were destroyed in the blitz. A search operation is ongoing.
The morning air attacks came just hours after the army said more than 100 soldiers had been killed by the TTP in the last five months, a rare admission of relatively heavy casualties.
The targeted militants were reportedly involved in plotting terrorist attacks in the country including the attack on February 13 on a police bus in Karachi that killed 13 police officials and injured at least 57 others.
Chief of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) Mohmand Agency chapter Umar Khorasani said that every action has a reaction, referring to the aerial bombings.
He also stated that the use of force cannot stop them and they are not afraid of any power, adding that their war is ideological.
Prof Ibrahim condemns bombings
Chief of Jamaat-e-Islami’s Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa chapter Professor Mohammad Ibrahim condemned the bombings in North Waziristan. He is one of the members of committee formed by the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) to act as a bridge between the government and the TTP for peace negotiations.
On February 19, the TTP had offered to observe a ceasefire to allow the resumption of stalled peace talks, provided security forces stop killing and arresting its members.
Aerial strike in Khyber Agency
At least seven militants were killed and six others injured in two aerial strikes in Bara tehsil of Khyber Agency, Express News reported on Thursday.
In the first strike, around three militants were killed in aerial bombing by security forces. An improvised explosive device (IED) factory was also destroyed in the operation.
Helicopters shelled militant hideouts in the Alam Godar area of Bara tehsil in the second strike, killing at least four and injuring six others.
Response to terrorism
Minister for Defence Khawaja Asif said that necessary steps will be taken to ensure the safety of the citizens of Pakistan.
He stated that 175 people had been killed in 40 attacks by militants in the last 17 days and this was the reason why the operation was ordered.
Armed forces and security agencies will respond to acts of terrorism, the minister added.
In an unusually tough statement, a spokesperson of Nawaz Sharif had said in televised remarks late on February 19 that the army was capable of crushing all enemies.
“The prime minister wants to resolve these issues without bloodshed, but if the Taliban continue killing people then we will be left with no choice but to keep our citizens safe from terrorism through any means possible,” Information Minister Pervez Rashid had said.