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Airstrikes Near Afghan Border Kill 14 Militants, Pakistan Says

FILE - A Pakistan army soldier stands guard in the Pakistani tribal area of Khyber near the Torkham border post between Pakistan and Afghanistan, June 15, 2016.

Airstrikes near the Pakistan-Afghanistan border have killed at least 14 militants and wounded 11 others, Pakistan's military said late Tuesday.

The air and ground operation targeted a remote valley in the Khyber tribal district and destroyed nine hideouts, army spokesman Lieutenant General Asim Bajwa said.

“An operation has been launched along the Pak-Afghan border to reinforce troop deployment in [the] Rajgal Valley to effectively check and guard against terrorist movement along high mountains and all-weather passes in Khyber Agency,” he said.

Khyber tribal district, Pakistan
Khyber tribal district, Pakistan

Khyber is one of Pakistan’s seven semiautonomous tribal areas along the Afghan border. They have long been condemned as safe havens for militant and criminal networks blamed for terrorist attacks on both sides of the frontier.

Pakistani authorities, however, say that counterterrorism operations in recent years have dismantled the terrorist infrastructure in the mountainous region, and troops have lately focused on securing the 2,600-kilometer porous border.

Suicide blast

Pakistani security forces have stepped up counterterrorism measures, including "intelligence-based" operations around the country, following the August 8 suicide bombing of a hospital in the southwestern city of Quetta. The attack killed 74 people and wounded many more.

A splinter faction of the Pakistani Taliban known as Jamaat-ul-Ahrar claimed responsibility.

Officials allege the group operates out of Afghanistan and has links to intelligence operatives of the neighboring country, charges Kabul rejects.

For their part, authorities in Afghanistan maintain that leaders of the Afghan Taliban are sheltering in Pakistan and directing insurgent attacks from the other side of the border.

The mutual allegations are at the center of tensions in bilateral ties historically marred by mistrust and suspicion.

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