, ISLAMABAD, September 10- Pakistan’s military said Wednesday it had killed 65 militants and destroyed five hideouts in fresh air strikes as part of a major offensive against the Taliban in the northwest.
Pakistan began the long awaited push to clear insurgent bases from North Waziristan district, on the Afghan border, in June after a bloody attack on Karachi airport finally sank faltering peace talks with the rebels.
According to an official statement, the military first carried out air strikes early Wednesday in Datta Khel area of North Waziristan tribal district, killing 35, and later targeted a village in the Shawal Valley, killing 30.
The conflict zone is off limits to journalists, so there is no way to independently verify the number and identity of those killed.
Air strikes, artillery, mortars and ground troops have all been used to retake territory in North Waziristan, which had become a haven for fighters with the Tehreek e Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and other militant outfits.
The military has said the major towns of Miranshah and Mir Ali had now been cleared of insurgents, along with a 90 kilometre (55 mile) road through North Waziristan.
Pakistan’s semi autonomous tribal areas on the Afghan border have for years been a hideout for Islamist militants of all stripes — including Al-Qaeda and the homegrown TTP as well as foreign fighters such as Uzbeks and Uighurs.
Washington pressed Islamabad for years to take action to wipe out sanctuaries in North Waziristan, which militants have used to launch attacks on NATO forces in neighbouring Afghanistan.
The army announced earlier this month it had killed more than 900 militants and lost 82 soldiers since the start of the operation.
After one set of air strikes in the Shawal Valley in July, multiple accounts by residents said 37 civilians were killed, including 20 women and 10 children.