ISLAMABAD, Jan. 22 (UPI) —
Pakistani jets bombed the hideouts of militants Tuesday, killing several in retaliation for recent deadly attacks on security forces, sources told NBC News.
The jet struck the tribal North Waziristan tribal region close to the border with Afghanistan, which U.S. officials have long maintained are sanctuaries for militant groups who use them to launch attacks across the border on U.S. and NATO troops.
The latest jet strikes were the first by Pakistani air forces in the region since 2007 when the Islamabad government signed a peace agreement with local Taliban leaders, the U.S. network said.
NBC quoted Pakistani military officials as saying the strikes near the town of Mir Ali were "pinpoint strikes."
"The jets targeted sanctuaries of the local and foreign militants in (the) Mir Ali area of North Waziristan on the basis of intelligence information," a senior military official told NBC News.
The officials claimed 23 militants were killed, but villagers in the area told NBC the jets struck residential areas and that 15 civilians had died. One villager was quoted as saying most of the residents stayed in the open during the night as their villages had been bombed.
However, a military official said reports of civilian deaths were "not established."
India’s Hindu newspaper, quoting military sources, said at least 40 militants had been killed in the past two days of air strikes. It also said the strikes came after intelligence reports had confirmed about the militants’ whereabouts.
In the latest militant attacks on Pakistani security forces, at least 20 of them died in an explosion last Sunday at the Bannu cantonment in the northwest. The flowing day, a suicide bomb attack in a crowded market area near the military headquarters in Rawalpindi, which was claimed by the Pakistani Taliban, killed at least 13 people, some of them military personnel.
China’s Xinhua News Agency reported the recent militant attacks have led to calls on the government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to respond with a major offensive against the Pakistani Taliban in North Waziristan.
On Monday, opposition lawmakers came together to urge the government to strike back at the Taliban, although the government had been seeking to hold peace talks with the militants.
Taliban leaders have not shown readiness for the peace talks and have continued to with their attacks, the report said.