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— File photo
— File photo

PESHAWAR: At least 35 militants were killed Thursday as fighter jets targeted suspected insurgent hideouts in three different tehsils of the North Waziristan tribal region.

The bombardment comes a day after Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) said a ceasefire can be negotiated upon if the army stopped targeting its members.

Official sources told Dawn.com that militant hideouts in Dattakhel, Shawan and Mir Ali were targeted.

Other military sources said that the militants involved in the Peshawar cinema blast and killing of an army officer in frontier region Peshawar two days ago were targeted in their hideouts situated in Khyber tribal region.

Improvised explosive device (IED) making factories and prepared explosives were also destroyed in the strikes.

According to security sources, scores of others were also injured in the airstrikes.

The first strike was launched on the hideout of Abu Sattar, killing him, followed by strikes on Uzbek, Turkmen and Tajik hideouts. The latter strike killed a Tajik commander.

Meanwhile, the fifth strike was launched on a TTP hideout, killing 15 militants whereas jets also pounded TTP commander Abdur Razzak’s hideout. In total, 35 suspected militants were killed.

However, the deaths of only 15 militants could be confirmed by official sources.

A security official in Miramshah, the main town of North Waziristan, told AFP that jet fighters began pounding targets around 12:30 am, with the attack continuing for more than an hour.

A militant compound jointly used by insurgent groups was also destroyed in the airstrikes, the second official said.

Residents in the area said the Taliban compound caught fire after the attack, with flames visible through the night.

A resident in the area who requested anonymity told AFP some of the residents and their families were seen moving to safer places after the airstrikes.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif authorised the air strikes, a source in his office said.

“After restraining the army for three days, the prime minister himself authorised the strikes last night,” the government official said. “It was the only option to teach the Taliban a lesson.”

Sharif, who came to power last year promising to find a negotiated peace with the Taliban, has been trying to engage the militants in negotiations.

But talks broke down this week when a Taliban wing operating in the Mohmand tribal region said it had executed 23 soldiers in revenge for the killing of their fighters by the security forces.

North Waziristan is one of the seven regions in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) governed by tribal laws. An extremist insurgency led by the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) plagues the region and the area is known to be infested with militants, including those from Al Qaeda and other armed extremist organisations.

The region, which lies along the Pak-Afghan border, also comes under attacks from US drones frequently which target militant hideouts in the area.