The airstrikes were carried out Friday evening in the Datta Khel area of the North Waziristan tribal region, an army statement said Saturday, adding that an underground tunnel system and a large underground cache of weapons and ammunition were also destroyed.
The military claimed several important militant commanders were among the dead, but didn’t provide further details on the identities of the slain militants.
Also late Friday night, Pakistani troops ambushed a large assembly of militants on the border between the Orakzai and Khyber tribal regions, the statement said.
A Pakistani securitymen takes position outside a school in Peshawar where Taliban militants killed 150 people, mostly children, on December 16. (Reuters Photo)
It said an intense battle took place in which 16 militants were killed and another 20 injured. Four army soldiers were also injured in the shootout, the statement said.
Journalists are barred from the region and it is impossible to independently verify the information.
The army says it has killed over 1,200 militants since the start of a massive offensive launched June 15 against militants in North Waziristan. The military offensive was launched after a terrorist attack on Pakistan’s largest airport in Karachi.
The North Waziristan tribal region is one of seven tribal regions near the Afghan border where local and foreign militants have found safe haven for years. A parallel government offensive is taking place in the neighboring Khyber tribal region to pursue militants fleeing the North Waziristan offensive.
Peshawar conspirator killed
Forces have killed a Taliban commander who allegedly facilitated the Peshawar school massacre, which left 150 people dead in the country’s worst ever terror attack, officials said.
Named only as « Saddam », the militant was killed Thursday night in a gunfight with security forces in the restive Khyber tribal area, which borders the northwestern city of Peshawar where last week’s horrific attack took place.
« Commander Saddam was a dreaded terrorist, who was killed in an exchange of fire with the security forces in Jamrud town of Khyber tribal region, » top local administration official Shahab Ali Shah told a press conference in Peshawar.
He added that Saddam is believed to have facilitated the school attack, although the extent or capacity of his alleged involvement was not yet known.
He described Saddam as an important commander in the Pakistani Taliban, or Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), and said he had masterminded several bomb attacks.
Saddam and his accomplices had been involved in several recent attacks on security forces that had resulted in heavy casualties, Shah said.
Pakistan has ramped up its anti-terror strategy in the wake of the December 16 slaughter at an army-run school in Peshawar, where 134 children were among the victims gunned down by heavily-armed Taliban militants.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has announced the establishment of military courts for terror-related cases in order to accelerate trials, and he has also lifted a six-year moratorium on the death penalty, reinstating it for terrorism-related cases.
Officials said Pakistan plans to execute around 500 militants in the coming weeks.
UN urges Pakistan to halt executions
UN chief Ban Ki-moon, meanwhile, is pressing Pakistan to end capital punishment and restore a moratorium on the death penalty the government lifted in terror cases following the Taliban school massacre.
Ban spoke with Sharif on Thursday to express his condolences after the slaughter in Peshawar.
However, « while fully recognizing the difficult circumstances, the secretary general urged the government of Pakistan to stop the executions of convicts and re-impose the moratorium on the death penalty, » Ban’s office said in a statement.
Pakistani security forces drive on a road leading to the Peshawar school last week. (Reuters Photo)
Sharif promised that « all legal norms would be respected, » the statement added.
The prime minister ended the six-year moratorium on the death penalty, reinstating it for terrorism-related cases, in the wake of the deadliest terror attack in Pakistani history.
Pakistan plans to execute 500 militants in the coming weeks.
(With AP and AFP inputs)