Pakistani jets pounded targets in the country’s northwest on Monday as the military waged an offensive against militant safe havens that killed 37 fighters, while insurgents fought back with a roadside bomb that killed six soldiers, the first army casualties of the operation, the military said.
The air strikes are part of a long-awaited operation against foreign and local militants in North Waziristan, an essentially lawless tribal region. The operation started Sunday.
PM Nawaz Sharif, who has promoted the talks, defended military action during a speech to parliament on Monday. Sharif said the government had tried for more than four months to talk to the militants but their violence continued. He said Pakistan could not become a safe haven for militants.
The airstrikes early Monday targeted six hideouts in the Shawal area near the border with South Waziristan, a neighboring tribal region, killing 27 militants, the military said.
Separately, the military said seven militants were killed trying to escape a town in North Waziristan, and another three were killed by snipers while trying to lay roadside bombs near Miran Shah.
Shahidullah Shahid, a spokesman for the militants, warned in a statement that international investors, foreign airlines and multinational organizations should leave Pakistan or they’d be considered supporters of the government and fair game.