BANNU: Pakistani jets and helicopter gunships attacked suspected militant hideouts in restive North Waziristan tribal agency on Monday and killed at least 33 people, the military said.

The strikes took place in the Datta Khel and Gharlamai districts of the remote tribal region.

“In two different aerial engagements in North Waziristan today, nine terrorist hideouts were destroyed killing a total of 33 terrorists,” a military statement said.

Local security officials said the militants killed in the Datta Khel area were mostly Uzbeks and others who belonged to the Haqqani network.

In a separate incident on Monday, at least nine soldiers were injured when militants targeted a security forces vehicle with an improvised explosive device (IED) in Charmang tehsil of Bajaur tribal agency.

The injured included seven Frontier Corps (FC) personnel and two Levies men.

Pakistan has been battling extremist militants in its semi-autonomous tribal belt since 2004, after the army entered the region to search for Al Qaeda fighters who had fled across the border following the US-led invasion of Afghanistan.

In June, the military began an offensive dubbed Operation Zarb-i-Azb against militant hideouts in North Waziristan after a bloody raid on Karachi Airport ended faltering peace talks between the government and Pakistani Taliban militants.

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North Waziristan is a major base for the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), an umbrella group of extremist militants mainly based in the remote tribal areas.

The military says it has killed more than a thousand militants and lost 86 soldiers since the start of the operation.

But the toll and identity of those killed is difficult to verify because journalists do not have regular access to the conflict zones.

The offensive has driven out over 800,000 residents from North Waziristan, where the army says it has cleared 90 percent of the tribal region.

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