The Associated Press: Pakistani airstrikes kill at least 12 militants
Pakistani airstrikes kill at least 12 militants
By RIAZ KHAN – 17 minutes ago
PESHAWAR, Pakistan (AP) — Pakistani fighter jets pounded Taliban positions in the country's volatile northwest on Saturday, killing at least 12 suspected insurgents, security officials said, as the government kept up pressure on Islamist militants along the Afghan border.
Elsewhere in the northwest, clashes between tribesmen and Taliban fighters left 16 people dead in the latest violence between pro-government tribal militias and insurgents.
The government airstrikes hit three suspected militant positions in the Kurram region, part of the rugged, lawless tribal belt along Pakistan's border with Afghanistan, two security officials said.
Twelve Taliban fighters were killed and many more were wounded, the officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.
The military could not be immediately reached for confirmation.
Access to the remote, dangerous region is restricted, and the account could not be independently verified.
Islamabad has ramped up the pressure on Taliban militants across the volatile northwest in recent months. It is preparing for an offensive in South Waziristan, a region of the tribal belt where top Taliban and al-Qaida leaders are believed to be hiding.
The U.S., which launched a major offensive against the Taliban in neighboring Afghanistan this week, strongly supports Pakistan's efforts to crack down on militants on its side of the frontier, believing it could help the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan.
The fighting between tribesmen and militants took place in the remote Mohmand region, which also lies along the Afghan frontier. Dozens of fighters attacked the tribal militia after receiving a warning from a council of tribal elders to leave the area, a local government official said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.
Islamabad has encouraged local tribesmen in the semiautonomous frontier areas to establish militias — known as lashkars — to flush out Taliban fighters blamed for attacks in Pakistan as well as in Afghanistan.
Such groups have been set up in several regions but face stiff Taliban resistance.
Saturday's clash was the first major fighting in months between tribesmen and militants in the Mohmand tribal region. Tribal elders have begun to clear the area of militants after receiving a warning from the military that it would be forced to send in troops if the tribesmen failed to either kill or evict the insurgents.
Local security officials confirmed the clashes and the death toll.
Also Saturday, the Taliban said it shot down a helicopter that crashed Friday in the northwest, killing 26 people on board.
"We destroyed this army helicopter," said Mohammed, a Taliban spokesman who goes by only one name.
The government has blamed the crash on a technical problem, although it also ordered an investigation.
Associated Press writer Hussain Afzal in Parachinar contributed to this report.