Pakistani air force jets on Saturday pounded militant hideouts in the restive North Waziristan tribal region near the Afghan border, killing scores of insurgents, mostly Uzbeks, as part of the military offensive against the Taliban.
The early morning attack was launched in Miranshah — the main town of North Waziristan — and Boya village after militants hiding in the areas continued their uninterrupted fire against Pakistani forces.
“The airstrikes were launched against five terrorist hideouts to flush them out,” military spokesman Major General Asim Bajwa said.
“Caves and huge cache of arms and ammunition were destroyed and scores of terrorists killed in early morning strikes, silencing the firers,” Bajwa said.
Literature and flags of of international militant organisations have reportedly been found during search operations.
He said most of the terrorists killed in the strikes were Uzbeks. Al-Qaeda affiliate Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan has had a large presence in the country’s tribal belt since the US-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001.
Bajwa said a soldier was killed when an improvised explosive device (IED) went off during a clearance operation. It was second death of a soldier in two days. Terrorists have laid extensive IEDs in Miranshah.
Pakistan on June 15 launched the long-awaited operation named ‘Zarb-i-Azb’ against Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan in the region bordering Afghanistan to flush out their strongholds. The militants, however, have continued to attack security forces and civilian targets.
At least 386 militants and 20 soldiers have been killed in the massive offensive, which has displaced nearly 600,000 people forcing them to live in temporary shelters.
North Waziristan is considered as the last bastion of militants who have killed over 50,000 people in more than a decade of insurgency.
There are still some key resistance points where the fleeing militants have left some fighters who are planting mines to stop the advancement of security forces.
The operation was launched following a deadly attack on Karachi international airport which killed 37 people, including the 10 attackers.
The Pakistan government is struggling to deal with the mass exodus as displaced people complained of lack of food and other facilities.