Pakistani jets bomb targets in tribal zone

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iol pic wld pakistan unrest north AFP Pakistani tribal families cross a military checkpoint as they flee after air strikes on Taliban hideouts near Saidgi village, in North Waziristan. File picture: Thir Khan

Islamabad/Peshawar- Pakistani fighter jets bombed suspected militant hideouts in the tribal region of North Waziristan near the Afghan border on Wednesday, killing at least 32 people, military sources said.

Disagreement over how to handle the Taliban insurgency has soured relations between Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Pakistan's powerful army, which has been pushing for a major military offensive against militants.

Sharif has been trying to engage the Taliban in talks but negotiations have failed repeatedly since he came to power a year ago. It was unclear whether Sharif had authorised the latest air strikes overnight.

“Fighter jets started bombing militant positions early on Wednesday,” said a senior military official in Miranshah, the capital of North Waziristan.

“Before the launch of the air strikes, we had confirmed intelligence information about hideouts of the militants and their top commanders.”

Another military source said at least 32 people “including important commanders” had been killed.

Despite Sharif's insistence on talks, the military has carried out a series of brief air raids in the region. It was unclear if the latest air strikes signalled the start of a broader military campaign against the Taliban.

North Waziristan residents said dozens of houses used as hideouts by the militants had been targeted. It was not immediately clear if any civilians were killed.

“It was around 3am in the morning when I heard huge explosions,” tribesman Naseeb Gul told Reuters by telephone.

“I saw four helicopters flying over the area and hitting some villages,” he said. - Reuters

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