Pakistani troops backed by helicopters and artillery attacked suspected militant hide-outs in tribal areas close to the Afghan border, killing 40 rebels and arresting 30, the army said on Thursday. At least eight soldiers also died. The fighting took place in South Waziristan, a militant stronghold where the rebel leader, accused by the CIA and Pakistan's government of masterminding last month's assassination of opposition leader Benazir Bhutto, is believed to be hiding.
The militants were killed in a series of raids on Wednesday and early Thursday in the mountainous region, the military said. Three districts in South Waziristan “had been cleared of militant strongholds and hide-outs” as a result of the operations, the military said in a statement, adding that 40 rebels had been killed and 30 others arrested.
Eight soldiers also died, it said, giving no more details. South Waziristan is a semiautonomous tribal region where the central government has never had much control.
It is home to scores of al-Qaida and Taliban fighters who fled from neighboring Afghanistan after the U.S.-led invasion there in 2001.