Pakistani jets bombed Taliban hideouts in North Waziristan early on Thursday, killing least 15 people a day after the insurgents offered a ceasefire if the Army stopped targeting them, security officials said.
“There are confirmed reports of 15 militants including foreigners killed in these airstrikes,” said a senior security official, adding that the attacks focused on the town of Mir Ali and surrounding areas of North Waziristan.
On Wednesday, Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) peace mediators said they were ready to observe a ceasefire to allow the resumption of peace talks, provided Pakistani security forces stopped killing and arresting them. The peace talks between the Taliban and the government stalled this week due to a recent surge in insurgent attacks and a claim by a Taliban faction on Sunday that it had killed 23 kidnapped soldiers. Government mediators set a ceasefire as a precondition for another round of talks.
“Airstrikes were carried out to target militant hideouts with precision. A huge cache of arms and ammunition have also been destroyed,” the security official said. A second security official in Miranshah, the main town of North Waziristan said that jet fighters began pounding targets around 12:30 a.m., with the attack continuing for more than an hour. A militant compound jointly used by insurgent groups was also destroyed in the airstrikes, the second official said.
Residents in the area said the Taliban compound caught fire after the attack, with flames visible through the night. A resident in the area who requested anonymity said some of the residents and their families were seen moving to safer places after the airstrikes.
The TTP have been waging a bloody campaign against the Pakistani state since 2007, carrying out a number of bomb and gun attacks, often on military targets. Militants killed an Army major near Peshawar on Tuesday, and a soldier died in a separate border post attack the same day in South Waziristan, security officials said.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif announced the start of talks with the Taliban on Jan. 29 to “give peace another chance” following a seven-year insurgency that has claimed nearly 7,000 lives. But continued Taliban attacks forced government negotiators to suspend the talks and ask for a ceasefire. The Taliban said that the recent attacks were to avenge the alleged extra-judicial murder of comrades in government custody.