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Pakistani army starts offensive against militants

Posted: June 15, 2014 8:33 a.m.
Updated: June 15, 2014 8:33 a.m.
 

ISLAMABAD (AP) — The Pakistani army said Sunday that it had launched a "comprehensive operation" against foreign and local militants in a tribal region near the Afghan border, hours after jets pounded militant hideouts in the country's northwest.

The move effectively ends at least in the near term the Pakistani government's policy of trying to negotiate with militants instead of using military force to end the years of fighting. The North Waziristan tribal area, where the military said the operation is targeted, is one of the last areas in the tribal areas where the military has not launched a large military operation against militants.

There was no immediate information on how many troops were involved or what the operation would entail.

The U.S. has long pushed for Pakistan to launch an operation in North Waziristan, because militants there often use the tribal region as a sanctuary from which to attack NATO and Afghan troops in neighboring Afghanistan.

News of the operation comes exactly a week after an audacious attack by militants against the Karachi airport killed at least 36 people including ten militants. The airport attack, against a transportation hub vital to the country's economy, shocked Pakistanis.

An army statement issued Sunday says the long-awaited offensive was started at the direction of the government of Pakistan.

North Waziristan is home to a mix of local and al-Qaida linked foreign militants.

Earlier Sunday Pakistani jets pounded insurgent hideouts in North Waziristan, killing dozens of militants in an aggressive response targeting those believed responsible for the five-hour siege of the Karachi airport a week ago, officials said.

There were conflicting accounts of how many people were killed in the airstrikes. The military said in a statement that more than 80 militants were killed, although intelligence officials earlier put the toll as high as 100.

The area where the strikes occurred is remote and dangerous for journalists, making it impossible to independently verify the accounts.

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