The Pakistan military says its gun ship helicopters have destroyed a terror training facility near the border with Afghanistan, killing up to 80 suspected militants.Officials in Pakistan say Monday's early morning raid in the Bajaur tribal region targeted an Islamic school, known as a madrassah, where militants were being trained.
Army spokesman Major-General Shaukat Sultan tells VOA that those running the facility were repeatedly warned to close the madrassah before it was attacked.
"Despite the warnings, once it was not closed, the security forces carried out a strike this morning in which this madrassah (Islamic school) was knocked out. We had the information about presence of 70-to-80 militants in this madrassah at the time of the strike," Sultan says.
General Sultan says the Islamic school belonged to a Muslim cleric wanted by the Pakistani authorities for terrorist activities and for providing refuge to al-Qaida militants. He dismissed allegations that Monday's air strike also killed innocent civilians.
The attack came two days after thousands of tribesmen held an anti-American rally in the region and chanted slogans in support of al-Qaida chief Osama bin Laden and Taleban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar.
The remote Pakistani region borders the volatile Afghan province of Kunar, where Taleban insurgents have carried out frequent attacks against foreign troops.
In January this year, U.S. forces conducted an air strike in Bajaur, which American officials say was aimed at al-Qaida's second-in-command, Ayman al-Zawahri. That attack killed several al-Qaida operatives but Zawahri was not in the area at the time.
A large number of al-Qaida and Taleban militants are believed to have taken refuge in Pakistan's mountainous tribal belt on the Afghan border after fleeing the U.S-led hunt for them in Afghanistan.
Commanders of foreign troops and officials in Afghanistan blame many insurgent attacks there on militants hiding in the Pakistani region.