MIRANSHAH, Feb 20 – Pakistani jets bombed Taliban hideouts in a northwestern tribal district early Thursday, killing least 15 people a day after the insurgents offered a ceasefire if the army stopped targeting them, security officials said.
“There are confirmed reports of 15 militants including foreigners killed in these airstrikes,” a senior security official told AFP, adding that the attacks focused on the town of Mir Ali and surrounding areas of North Waziristan.
On Wednesday, Pakistan Tehreek e Taliban (TTP) peace mediators said they were ready to observe a ceasefire to allow the resumption of peace talks, provided Pakistani security forces stopped killing and arresting them.
“Airstrikes were carried out to target militant hideouts with precision. A huge cache of arms and ammunition have also been destroyed,” the official said.
Peace talks between the Taliban and the government, announced on January 29, stalled this week due to a recent surge in insurgent attacks and a claim by a Taliban faction on Sunday that it had killed 23 kidnapped soldiers.
Government mediators set a ceasefire as a precondition for another round of talks.
A total of 70 people have been killed since the reconciliation effort was launched.
A second security official in Miranshah, the main town of North Waziristan told AFP that jet fighters began pounding targets around 12:30 am, with the attack continuing for more than an hour.
A militant compound jointly used by insurgent groups was also destroyed in the airstrikes, the second official said.
Residents in the area said the Taliban compound caught fire after the attack, with flames visible through the night.
A resident in the area who requested anonymity told AFP some of the residents and their families were seen moving to safer places after the airstrikes.
The TTP have been waging a bloody campaign against the Pakistani state since 2007, carrying out a number of bomb and gun attacks, often on military targets.
Militants killed an army major near the northwestern city of Peshawar on Tuesday, and a soldier died in a separate border post attack the same day in lawless South Waziristan, security officials said.
Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif announced the start of talks with the Taliban on January 29 to “give peace another chance” following a seven year insurgency that has claimed nearly 7,000 lives.
But continued Taliban attacks forced government negotiators to suspend the talks and ask for a ceasefire.
The Taliban said that the recent attacks were to avenge the alleged extra judicial murder of comrades in government custody.