Pakistani military jet fighters and helicopter gunships bombed several militant hideouts in a northwestern tribal region near the Afghan border on Wednesday, killing nearly 30 militants, Pakistani officials said.
The morning airstrikes in the lawless North Waziristan mainly targeted the town of Mir Ali, a military officer and two intelligence officials told The Associated Press. They spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations.
Several local residents, who mostly spoke anonymously for fear for their own safety, said the strikes also killed several civilians in a nearby village.
One resident, who identified himself as Saeedullah Khan, said the army had also been using artillery fire since early morning.“We heard big bangs,” he said. “I saw some houses flattened.”
The claims could not be independently verified. The lawless tribal area is off limits to foreign journalist and the Pakistani army didn’t release any statement confirming the strikes or the death toll.
Waziristan is part of Pakistan’s tribal region, which is home to local and al-Qaida-linked foreign militants who have been waging a bloody war against the state, killing thousands of people.
The Pakistani Taliban seek to impose their own harsh brand of Islamic Shariah law and have been running a terror campaign in a bid to overthrow the government in Pakistan.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has been pursuing a policy of negotiation with the Taliban to end the decades of militant violence, but government efforts have not yielded any results so far.
Wednesday’s bombing in North Waziristan came a day after police confirmed that a Chinese tourist had been abducted in the area.
Abdullah Bahar, a militant commander, claimed responsibility for the abduction and said that his Shehryar Mehsud group, which operates under the Pakistani Taliban, would use the Chinese tourist to try to secure the release of their comrades in Pakistani custody. It was not clear, however, if the abduction was sanctioned by the central command of the Pakistani Taliban.