Warplanes and artillery on Sunday pounded Taliban hideouts in Pakistan's unruly tribal belt in preparation for an assault on the stronghold of militant commander Baitullah Mehsud as over 50 rebels were killed, including seven by local anti-Taliban militia.
Forty-one militants, including Uzbeks, Tajiks and Arabs, were killed when jets and gunship helicopters targeted militant positions in the Malakand division and Bajaur tribal region's several villages of Chaharmang and Salarzai sub-districts, officials said.
In Upper Dir district, a 'lashkar´ or tribal militia killed seven militants and injured another during a two-hour gun battle late last night. Police said the militants were killed while trying to flee from the area. Several lashkars were formed in Upper Dir after a suicide attack on a mosque two weeks ago that was blamed on the Taliban.
The air strikes destroyed several militant hideouts. Security forces deployed in Bajaur over the past few days consolidated their positions and continued their advance into areas held by Taliban commander Qari Zia-ur-Rehman and his men, officials were quoted as saying by Dawn News channel.
Seven militants were killed and 16 were apprehended in the northwestern Malakand division during the past 24 hours, the military said in a statement. Five soldiers were also injured in fighting in the area.