Pak troops kill 34 ultras in tribal belt

KHAR: Pakistani officials today said that troops backed by warplanes and helicopter gunships killed 34 militants in the wake of a suicide attack in a district near the Afghan border.

Pakistan’s Frontier Corps have stepped up an offensive targeting Taliban havens in Bajaur district and four soldiers have been wounded in gunfights, a paramilitary official said.

Pakistan intensified the raids around the towns of Mamoond and Salarzai towns after a suicide bomber attacked a military checkpoint, killing 17 people in the district’s main town of Khar on Saturday.

“A total of 34 militants have been killed and an unknown number of them were injured in two days,” Abdul Malik, a local administrative official told AFP by telephone.

“Ground troops pounded the hideouts with artillery while fighter jets carried

air strikes and gunship

helicopters shelled their bases,” he added.

Mamoond is around 12 km northwest of Khar. The town and parts of adjacent Salarzai are notorious Taliban hideouts which Pakistan troops failed to clear in past offensives against militant havens.

Pakistan has slapped an indefinite curfew in Khar, Mamoond and Salarzai, and has closed all major roads in the area.

District security and intelligence officials confirmed the ground and air offensive, claiming that militants were suffering “heavy loses”.

“Twenty militants were killed yesterday while we have reports that 14 have been killed in today’s operation. Four troops were also wounded during exchanges of fire,” a paramilitary official told AFP on condition of anonymity.

“Ground troops are advancing and have taken control of Sewai, the centre of Mamoond,” a security official in Peshawar told AFP.

Bajaur, which is at the northern tip of Pakistan’s semi-autonomous tribal belt shadowing the Afghan border, has seen a spike of attacks in recent weeks as security forces try to dismantle Taliban sanctuaries.

Pakistan first launched operations in Bajaur

in August 2008.