BANNU, Pakistan (Reuters) - A U.S. drone strike in northwestern Pakistan’s Shawal region killed at least four militants on Saturday, officials said, as Pakistani military forces dug into positions in the area ahead of what officials described as an anti-Taliban offensive.
”According to internal conversations of the militants, members of the Punjabi Taliban and foreign militants believed to be Arabs were killed in the drone strike,” said a security official in Miranshah, the headquarters of the mountainous region of North Waziristan along the border. Punjab is a province in Pakistan.
The drone fired two missiles and hit a compound in the Wara Mandi area of the remote and mountainous Shawal Valley, security officials said. The security officials said between four to seven militants were reported killed.
The heavily forested ravines of Shawal Valley are one of the last major strongholds of the Taliban in North Waziristan, a region that borders Afghanistan.
The Taliban used to control North Waziristan’s urban centers but were pushed out after the military launched an offensive there in June.
This week, the military moved ground troops toward Shawal as part of an anti-Taliban push. The scope of the operation is not yet clear and the Pakistani military has declined to comment.
On Friday, the Pakistani military said it killed 15 militants in air strikes in Shawal valley.
Additional reporting by Hafiz Wazir in Wana, Saud Mehsud in Dera Ismail Khan and Jibran Ahmad in Peshawar; Writing By Katharine Houreld, Editing by Rosalind Russell