Over 50 suspected militants were killed and several others injured when fighter jets and helicopter gunships bombed their hideouts in the tribal regions of North Waziristan and Khyber, officials said on Tuesday. The air strikes – targeting militant hideouts in Mir Ali, Miramshah and Tirah Valley – came in response to the recent surge in militant attacks targeting security forces.
About the Waziristan air raids, a senior security official claimed that at least 40 militants were killed and scores were injured. “On confirmed intelligence reports about the presence of militants, their hideouts were targeted by air strikes last night [Monday night] in North Waziristan Agency,” said the official requesting anonymity. “The militants killed were linked with attacks on Peshawar’s All Saints’ Church, Qissa Khawani Bazaar and Bannu garrison bombing.”
Among the targets was the home of Adnan Rashid, a senior militant commander who wrote an open letter last year to Malala Yousafzai, justifying the attack on her. He was also accused of being behind the failed assassination attempt on former military ruler Pervez Musharraf.
There were reports about him being killed in the attack, but he escaped unscathed, according to Reuters. Rashid was later seen alive in a marketplace in Miramshah, militant and military sources said.
A Miramshah-based intelligence official said the airstrikes and shelling were ongoing (until the filing of this report) and had forced some residents of the area to flee.
In the remote Tirah Valley of Khyber Agency, at least a dozen suspected militants were killed when fighter jets bombed their hideouts in the Inzar Kor area of Kuki Khel. A security official claimed that four militant hideouts were flattened in the blitz. However, he wouldn’t say how many militants were killed in the early morning air raids.
When asked, officials dismissed suggestion that the air strikes were the formal beginning of a military offensive against the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and its affiliates.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif insisted that the nation was united against terrorism and cowardly attacks could not lower its morale. During a visit to the Combined Military Hospital, Rawalpindi, on Tuesday‚ he said the nation was proud of the armed forces personnel ‚ who have offered matchless sacrifices in the fight against militancy.
“Those who have sacrificed their lives today for our better tomorrow are our benefactors,” remarked Nawaz, who was also accompanied by army chief General Raheel Sharif. He met those who were injured in Monday’s RA Bazaar bombing in Rawalpindi.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 22nd, 2014.