Pakistani forces say 39 militants killed in airstrikes

The Pakistani military says airstrikes carried out Friday evening in the North Waziristan tribal region near the Afghan border killed 39 militants. The military said several important militant commanders were killed.

Maqsood Mehdi/Reuters
A Pakistani soldier stands near the debris of a house which was destroyed during a military operation against Taliban militants in the town of Miranshah in North Waziristan in July. "It's a revenge attack for the army offensive in North Waziristan," Taliban spokesman Muhammad Umar Khorasani told Reuters following the attack at a military-run school in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar on December 16, in which, according to officials, at least 18 people were killed, including 16 pupils. Pakistani forces launched their first major offensive in years against Taliban militants in the North Waziristan region, near the Afghan border, in June 2014.

Pakistani warplanes and ground forces killed 39 militants as part of an ongoing operation in a volatile tribal region near the Afghan border, the Pakistani military said.

The airstrikes were carried out Friday evening in the Datta Khel area of the North Waziristan tribal region, an army statement said Saturday, adding that an underground tunnel system and a large underground cache of weapons and ammunition were also destroyed.

The military claimed several important militant commanders were among the dead, but didn't provide further details on the identities of the slain militants.

Also late Friday night, Pakistani troops ambushed a large assembly of militants on the border between the Orakzai and Khyber tribal regions, the statement said.

It said an intense battle took place in which 16 militants were killed and another 20 injured. Four army soldiers were also injured in the shootout, the statement said.

Journalists are barred from the region and it is impossible to independently verify the information.

The army says it has killed over 1,200 militants since the start of a massive offensive launched June 15 against militants in North Waziristan. The military offensive was launched after a terrorist attack on Pakistan's largest airport in Karachi.

The North Waziristan tribal region is one of seven tribal regions near the Afghan border where local and foreign militants have found safe haven for years. A parallel government offensive is taking place in the neighboring Khyber tribal region to pursue militants fleeing the North Waziristan offensive.

Associated Press Writer Riaz Khan contributed to this report from Peshawar, Pakistan.

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