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Pakistan jets kill Mehsud associates: official

world Updated: Jul 22, 2009 15:22 IST
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Pakistani jets pounded suspected bases of wanted Taliban warlord Baitullah Mehsud, killing four of his militants in the northwest near the Afghan border, an official said on Wednesday.

The fighter aircraft bombed two places in the Sarwakai area of South Waziristan, a rugged tribal area that borders Afghanistan, officials said.

"Our jets hit a militant base in Gurguri and a Taliban compound in Ous Pass in Sarwakai. Both were destroyed and a total of four militants were killed," a military official said, requesting anonymity.

The militants killed in the strikes belonged to Mehsud's group, he said.

A government official confirmed the raids late on Tuesday, but gave no casualty figures, which are impossible to confirm independently given the remote terrain in the wild tribal belt that falls outside direct state control.

Sarwakai, controlled by Pakistan's feared Taliban chief Mehsud, is about 35 kilometres (22 miles) east of Wana, the main town in South Waziristan.

It is located on the highway linking the tribal region to the northwestern Pakistani town of Tank.
The United States branded Mehsud a key Al-Qaeda facilitator in the tribal areas and put a five-million-dollar bounty on his head.

Islamabad blames him for a wave of deadly suicide attacks across Pakistan in the last two years and the previous government accused him of masterminding the assassination of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto in 2007.

Although Pakistani commanders say air strikes in South Waziristan are in preparation for a ground offensive against Mehsud, there has been little sign of an imminent new front on terrain well suited to guerrilla warfare.