October 1, 2015 / 8:14 AM / 3 years ago

Pakistani forces kills 25 militants in air strikes, army says

BANNU, Pakistan (Reuters) - Pakistani forces killed 25 suspected militants in air strikes on Thursday on northwestern strongholds near the border with Afghanistan, the Pakistani army said.

The government launched a sustained offensive last year against Pakistani Taliban militants in lawless border regions, in particular North Waziristan.

But despite the action against the militants attacking the Pakistani state, neighboring Afghanistan complains that Pakistan allows its territory to be used by Afghan Taliban fighters, battling the government in Kabul.

The two Taliban forces are allied but under separate commands and fighting for different objectives.

“Twenty-five terrorists were killed today in precise aerial strikes ... close to Pakistan-Afghan border in North Waziristan,” a Pakistani military spokesman said in a release.

The army offensive, launched in June last year, has severely disrupted the Pakistan Taliban who have launched far few attacks in Pakistani towns and cites since then.

But they are still capable of devastating strikes, such as an attack on a military base on Sept. 18 in which 29 people were killed.

A Pakistani intelligence official, who declined to be identified as he is not authorized to speak to the media, said six militant hideouts had been destroyed in Thursday’s strikes that he said were 40 km (25 miles) from the Afghan border.

Independent verification of security force reports from the northwest is not possible as the military restricts access and most telephone lines to the area have been cut.

The Afghan government and NATO forces in Afghanistan have long complained that Afghan Taliban militants have been able to seek refuge in semi-autonomous Pashtun tribal areas on the Pakistani side of the border.

Afghan officials have also said the Pakistani army offensive has driven large numbers of fighters over the border, complicating the war in Afghanistan.

Some Afghan and Western officials have accused Pakistan of secretly supporting the Afghan Taliban as a tool to block the influence of its old rival, India, in Afghanistan.

Pakistan denies that and has accused Afghanistan and India of backing militants fighting the Pakistani government.

Additional Reporting by Hafiz Wazir; Writing by Mehreen Zahra-Malik

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