x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Pakistan targets Taliban sites

After pounding suspected militant positions in Pakistan's northwest, the government has turned its attention to South Waziristan.

Warplanes and helicopter gunships have pounded suspected militant positions in Pakistan's troubled northwest, killing 11 Taliban fighters, intelligence officials said. Elsewhere in the region, two government soldiers were killed and four were wounded when insurgents attacked a pair of military outposts near Wana in South Waziristan shortly after morning prayers with rockets, missiles and small arms fire, two intelligence officials said.

The military confirmed that two bases had been attacked, but could not immediately comment on casualties. Violence has spiked in recent weeks in South Waziristan, a rugged tribal area along Pakistan's border with Afghanistan, as the government prepares for an apparent offensive there aimed at eliminating the Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud. The military kept up its campaign in the region today. Jet fighters struck the village of Kani Guram overnight, leaving eight militants dead, while helicopter gunships hit positions in Shah Alam and Raghhzai, killing three more fighters, the intelligence officials said. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to disclose the information.

It was not possible to independently confirm the casualty counts and identities of those reported killed. Journalists have little access to the remote, dangerous region. The government has turned its attention to South Waziristan as it wraps up a two-month-old campaign to oust Mehsud-allied Taliban militants from the Swat Valley region, also in the northwest, where two million residents have been displaced by the fighting. Mehsud has retaliated to the government operations against the Taliban with a string of suicide attacks across the country that have killed more than 100 people in the past month.