Pakistan air strikes kill at least 21, army says

Attacks come against backdrop of broader military offensive in North Waziristan region

Pakistani fighter jets pounded suspected hideouts of Islamist militants in the country’s north-west on Thursday, killing at least 21 insurgents, the army said.

Renewed air strikes come against the backdrop of a broader military offensive in the lawless North Waziristan region on the Afghan border, where the Pakistani army has been battling to contain the insurgency since June.

This week’s fighting concentrated around the remote Tirah valley in the region known as the Khyber agency, where militants and their al Qaeda backers from across the mountainous area have been holed up since the start of the operation.

The army’s press wing said in a statement that 21 suspected militants were killed and five “hideouts” were destroyed, but gave no details.


“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 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.