Pakistan’s army has launched a series of air strikes against suspected terrorist hideouts in the country’s remote northwest and says it has killed at least 60 militants. The onslaught comes after a series of militant bombings in the country.
According to the military, a number of hardcore terrorists, important commanders and foreign fighters died in the targeted strikes in North Waziristan, an area rife with militants.
A reporter for VOA's Deewa service said the military targeted hideouts in Mir Ali and Miranshah, near the Afghan border.
Later on Wednesday, the military said four Pakistani soldiers were killed in a separate clash with "terrorists" near Mir Ali.
One eyewitness, who asked not to be named, said a number of non-combatants had died in the strikes. He said the strikes started at 2:00 a.m., and then happened again hours later. He said many residential homes were also destroyed and a number of people were killed besides the militants. Residents were also affected by the shelling.
North Waziristan resident Javed Noor told VOA's Deewa service that "the shelling continues, we can not go out." He said the government should relax its curfew, "so at least we can take our injured to the hospital and bury our dead."
Large caches of arms and ammunition, including material for making homemade bombs, or IEDs were destroyed in the strikes, the military said.
Independent verification of the army report is difficult as journalists are not allowed to enter the area.
According to the military, in recent weeks a large number of civilians and security personnel have been killed in suicide attacks and roadside bombs in the country’s tribal areas, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province and the southern city of Karachi.
According to Iain Overton, of the London-based group Action on Armed Violence, Pakistan has the third highest rate of IED use in the world.
“Pakistan has surprisingly high levels of IED usage. We usually think of Iraq and Syria as having a lot but actually Pakistan has IEDs that makes it the third most violent place in the world for explosive weapons use, more so than Afghanistan, more so than Nigeria,” Overton said.
Pakistan intelligence reports confirmed links between the terrorists targeted in the strikes and those responsible for the recent bomb blasts.
The latest military operation in North Waziristan was unusually large in scope.
Shafqat Malik, assistant inspector general of police for nearby Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, said although in the past there have been gaps in information sharing between the police, military and intelligence agencies, Wednesday’s operation was a joint effort.
“This was purely the good coordination of the agencies, the military, and the police," he said. "This was a joint operation, this was a success you can see, this coordination and interdepartmental cooperation and exchange of information give this result. You can see the result.”
Malik also heads the province’s bomb disposal unit. He said the militants’ constant use of IEDs and suicide attacks was leading to the destabilization of the region.
VOA's Deewa service contributed to this report