Air strikes kill 40 militants in Pakistan

  • Imtiaz Ahmad, Hindustan Times, Islamabad
  • Updated: Feb 21, 2014 02:31 IST

As peace talks between the Tehreek-e-Taliban and the Pakistan government hang in balance, jets of the Pakistan Air Force started an aerial bombing operation over North Waziristan where officials claimed that hideouts of militants were targeted. The operation, which started late Wednesday night, had so far resulted in 40 casualties, including those of foreign nationals, security officials claimed on Thursday.

To clarify matters, the office of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif also told reporters that the PM had authorised the air strikes, a sign that the government has finally caved into pressure from the military high command to start an operation against the militants.

The move comes hours after the country’s information minister lamented the be-heading of 23 para-military soldier earlier this week by the TTP and commented that even India “did not treat our POWs in this manner.”

On Thursday, defence minister Khawaja Asif added that 175 people had been killed in 40 attacks by militants in the last 17 days and this was the reason why the operation was ordered.

The operation now puts into question any possibility of peace talks between the TTP and the Sharif government. The TTP has not responded to the operation but it appointed Maulana Sami-ul Haq as its chief negotiator for talks, empowering him to discuss the terms of a possible ceasefire.

For its part, the TTP maintained that it could not enter into negotiations if its supporters were being killed while in custody. The TTP claims that 60 of its members have been killed while in custody.

Meanwhile, the Chief of the Jamaat-e-Islami’s Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa chapter Professor Mohammad Ibrahim, a negotiator on behalf of the TTP at the talks, condemned the bombings.

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