Pakistan

Air strikes kill 15 militants in Khyber region

PESHAWAR: Pakistan Air Force (PAF) jets on Saturday bombarded militant hideouts in a restive northwestern tribal area bordering Afghanistan killing at least 15 suspected insurgents, security officials said.

The air strikes were carried out in various areas of the Tirah valley in the lawless Khyber tribal district, where Taliban militants and local Islamist groups are active.

“At least 15 militants were killed and several injured while three hideouts were destroyed in precise aerial strikes in various areas of the Tirah valley in Khyber,” a local security official told AFP in Peshawar.

The strikes were part of a major offensive to clear Taliban and Al-Qaeda strongholds that began last year in North Waziristan, one of seven Pakistani tribal districts bordering Afghanistan.

The Pakistani airforce routinely targets Taliban militants’ strongholds in its restive northwestern tribal belt on the Afghan border.

The military began an offensive in Khyber in October 2014, carrying out air strikes and using artillery, mortars and ground troops.

Overall levels of militancy-linked violence have dropped dramatically this year, with 2015 on course for the fewest deaths among civilian and security forces since 2007 — the year the Pakistani Taliban umbrella group was formed.

Pakistan’s Islamist insurgency began after the US-led invasion of neighbouring Afghanistan in 2001, which led to a spillover of militants across the border and a surge in recruitment for Pakistani militant groups.

Pakistan’s relative success in fighting militancy this year stands in marked contrast to neighbouring Afghanistan, which is facing record numbers of civilian casualties following the withdrawal of NATO combat troops at the end of 2014.

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