Pakistani fighter jets pounded several suspected militant hideouts in Mir Ali area of North Waziristan agency early Tuesday, killing up to 40 people and injuring several others, military sources and residents said. The airstrikes took place as domestic pressure grew on Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to take tougher action against Taliban militants following a string of attacks across the country in the past week. “This hadn’t been planned before, and Pakistan Air Force jets were called to hit hideouts of the militants involved in attacks on security forces,” said one military official who spoke on condition of anonymity.
There was no official word on casualties and residents gave different numbers. Pakistani military sources put the death toll at 40, all of them suspected to be militants. Tribal elders said between 15 and 24 people were killed. A Taliban source put the death toll at 27. Military sources said fighter jets were only targeting militant hideouts. Residents said the bombardment started overnight without any warning. “We were all asleep when the planes started bombing the village,” said Khyal Zaman, a tribesman from Esori village in Mir Ali.
“We had no idea what happened in the dark and those who survived came out of their homes in desperation along with children and started walking away into the open.” According to a report by a foreign news agency, among the targets was the home of Adnan Rasheed, one of the most wanted militant commanders of the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).
Taliban and military sources told AFP that his house was hit but Rasheed himself was later seen alive in the marketplace of Miranshah, the main town of North Waziristan. The army was not immediately available for a comment. Fear and panic gripped the areas struck by the overnight blitz which flattened several houses, following which gunship helicopters conducted fresh strikes in the morning causing locals to flee the volatile area for safer places, according to a DawnNews report. The localities where the military strikes were conducted included Hamzoni village, Mohammadkhel village of Dattakhel tehsil in North Waziristan, Shera Tala area, Harmaz village, Moski village and other areas of North Waziristan.
Sources said those wounded in the attacks could not be shifted to hospitals for treatment due to a curfew imposed in the area. North Waziristan is one of the seven regions in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) governed by tribal laws. An extremist insurgency led by the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) plagues the region and the area is known to be infested with militants, including those from Al Qaeda and other armed extremist organisations. The region, which lies along the Pak-Afghan border, also comes under attacks from US drones frequently which target militant hideouts in the area.