Fifteen killed in Pakistani air strikes

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iol news pic jun9 Pakistan~21 Associated Press Smoke rises above the Jinnah International Airport, where security forces battled militants, in Karachi, Pakistan. Picture: Shakil Adil

Islamabad - Pakistan's air force launched air strikes in tribal areas on the Afghan border on Tuesday, killing at least 15 militants, the army said, two days after Taliban gunmen seized the country's biggest airport and killed more than 30 in an all-night battle.

Militants disguised as security forces stormed into the airport near Karachi, a city of 18 million, on Sunday night. The assault destroyed prospects for peace talks between the Pakistani Taliban and the government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

“Nine terrorist hideouts were destroyed by early morning military air strikes near the Pakistan-Afghan border,” the army's press wing said.

No other details were immediately available.

The Pakistani Taliban, an alliance of insurgent groups fighting to topple the government and set up a Islamist state, said they had carried out the attack in Karachi in response to air strikes on their strongholds near the Afghan border.

The assault on the airport brought the government a step closer to a broader army operation in the tribal North Waziristan region where the al-Qaeda-linked Taliban are based.

The army has periodically bombed suspected insurgent hideouts in the region, but has yet to launch a major offensive to flush out militants.

At Karachi airport, rescue workers recovered the bodies of seven people trapped inside a cargo building, bringing to 34 the death toll from the attack.

“The bodies are badly charred beyond identification,” said a morgue official who asked not to be named. - Reuters

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