WANA, Pakistan (Reuters) - Air strikes carried out by Pakistani forces have killed at least 31 people in the country’s volatile northwest, officials said, as an offensive against the Pakistani Taliban continues on several fronts.
Warplanes bombarded the Shawal Valley on Wednesday, killing at least 17 suspected militants, intelligence officials told Reuters. Four militant hideouts were destroyed, according to the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.
Abdul Rehman, a resident of the nearby village of Mana, told Reuters by telephone that he had heard the bombardment, but could not reach the targeted area to see the extent of the damage.
The air strikes took place in a part of the border area between the North and South Waziristan tribal regions where some civilians are still present. Most were evacuated last year, when Pakistan launched a full-scale offensive against the Pakistani Taliban and its allies in North Waziristan.
A renewed offensive in the Shawal Valley, including ground forces, began last month, aiming to clear out the remaining districts the military says are still home to Taliban fighters.
Also on Wednesday, more air strikes in the Khyber tribal area killed at least 14 militants and wounded six more, intelligence officials in the area told Reuters. They, too, spoke on condition of anonymity.
Those air strikes took place in the Tirah Valley, where the military has been battling the Pakistani Taliban and its ally Lashkar-e-Islam since October last year. They came in response to a bombing targeting a government office in nearby Jamrud on Tuesday, which killed at least four people, officials said.
Since its formation in 2007, the Pakistani Taliban - which is separate from but allied to the Afghan Taliban - has been battling to overthrow the government and impose a strict interpretation of Islamic Sharia law on the country.
At its peak, the group controlled swathes of territory in the country’s tribal areas and the Swat Valley. Since 2009 it has been beaten back by a series of military operations.
It continues, however, to launch attacks on government forces and civilians from hideouts in the tribal areas and, the Pakistani military claims, neighboring Afghanistan.
Additional reporting by Haji Mujtaba in Bannu and Saud Mehsud in Dera Ismail Khan, writing by Asad Hashim, editing by Larry King.