Pakistan 'kills 40 militants' in tribal belt | world | Hindustan Times
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Pakistan 'kills 40 militants' in tribal belt

world Updated: Jun 30, 2011 15:24 IST

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Pakistani troops backed by jets and helicopter gunships have killed 40 militants in a restive tribal area bordering Afghanistan in the past three days, a military commander said on Thursday.

Brigadier Aftab Ahmad said by telephone that his forces had destroyed 17 militant hideouts in the Baizai region under his command in the lawless tribal area of Mohmand.

"Militants were regularly attacking our posts on the Afghanistan border at Shonkari and Mithai and also targeting goods vehicles going to Afghanistan," he said.

Ghalanai is the main town in Mohmand, where Pakistan has recently stepped up raids on militant hideouts, as it faces American pressure to conduct a separate offensive against the al Qaeda-linked Haqqani network in North Waziristan.

"An operation was launched three days ago with the support of army aviation aircraft, helicopters and fighter jets. We killed at least 40 militants," Ahmad said.

Maqsood Hussain, a government official in Baizai, confirmed the raids and casualties, but it was not immediately clear how the Pakistani officials reached the body count of 40.

Mohmand is one of seven districts in Pakistan's semi-autonomous tribal belt, where Taliban and al Qaeda-linked militants have carved out strongholds used to plot attacks on Pakistani, Afghan and Western targets.

Washington has called the tribal belt the most dangerous place on Earth and the global headquarters of al Qaeda.

Pakistan has been under huge American pressure to do more to destroy militant sanctuaries since US Navy SEALs found and killed Osama bin Laden in the Pakistani military town of Abbottabad on May 2.