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54 militants killed in fresh airstrikes in Pak's restive northwest

Last updated on: March 25, 2015 19:32 IST

At least 54 suspected militants belonging to a pro-Taliban outfit, including its spokesman, were killed on Wednesday when Pakistani fighter jets pounded their hideouts and troops clashed with the insurgents in the volatile northwest tribal region near the Afghan border.

At least 30 militants were killed and two ammunition depots were destroyed in the aerial strikes that were carried out in remote Tirah Valley of Khyber Agency where militants of Lashkar-i-Islam have strongholds, Pakistan Army said in a statement.

The dead also included some foreign ultras in the airstrikes in the area where a major military campaign is underway.

There were unconfirmed reports that Lashkar-i-Islam spokesman Salahuddin Ayubi, was among the dead. The outfit announced an allegiance to the Taliban earlier this month.

The toll could not be verified through independent sources as the region is out of reach of media.

Security forces source said jets bombed militants' compounds in the valley and destroyed several hideouts.

Six militants were also injured in the latest bombings.

At least eight suspected militants were killed in a separate military operation in Orakzai tribal region, the Dawn reported.

Security forces targeted the militants after an Improvised Explosive Device blast in Sabak area of Orakzai.

In a yet separate raid, at least 16 militants including a commander were killed in clashes with the security forces in Shabak area of Lower Kurram Agency, sources said.

Around 80 militants and seven soldiers were killed in fierce clashes between security forces and terrorists in aerial and ground operations in Khyber district on Saturday.

The key commanders were among those killed in the bombing, said the security official without disclosing their identities.

Khyber is one of Pakistan's seven semi-autonomous regions governed by tribal laws and lies near the Afghan border.

The ongoing Khyber-1 operation launched by the military in the tribal region is part of its stepped-up efforts following the massacre of 150 people, mostly students, by Taliban gunmen at an army-run school in Peshawar in December.

Militants are believed to have fled to various tribal regions that borders Afghanistan, where they operate on both sides of the border.

Pakistani forces are battling the rebels in Khyber which is a strategic tribal region between Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Afghanistan as it links Peshawar with Kabul.

The troops have been engaged in a full-scale offensive against Taliban and other militants in North Waziristan region under an operation named 'Zarb-i-Azb', and also in Khyber, following a Taliban-claimed attack on Karachi International Airport in June last year.

The Taliban and its allies have been waging an insurgency for more than a decade in Pakistan, seeking to install their own brand of fundamentalist Islamic rule.

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