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Pakistani jets hit Taliban targets, kill 10

world Updated: Oct 14, 2009 16:25 IST

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Pakistani jet planes attacked Taliban hideouts in the country's north-western region near the Afghan border Wednesday, killing at least 10 militants, an official said.

The military said it was ready to move into the South Waziristan tribal district, a key bastion of Pakistani Taliban and their Al Qaeda cohorts, after weeks of air and artillery strikes on militant outposts.

"Jets staged successive bombing runs in villages around Ladha and destroyed several houses used by Taliban fighters," an intelligence official in the area said.

"Sketchy reports given by informants put the death toll at 10," the official added while insisting on anonymity.

Ladha, located 30 km north of South Waziristan's main town Wana, is a stronghold of former Taliban commander Baitullah Mehsud, who was killed in an Aug 5 missile strike by a US-operated drone.

Islamabad announced in June it would launch a decisive offensive against Mehsud's network, and the army has since been pounding Taliban targets after sealing key land routes and promoting local anti-Taliban militias.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reportedly said last month that nearly 80,000 people had fled the lawless region in anticipation of the onslaught.

On Tuesday, Interior Minister Rehman Malik told reporters that the government had decided to carry out a full-fledged operation in Waziristan, but said the time to send in the ground troops would be determined by the military commanders.

Army spokesman Major General Athar Abbas said Monday that around 80 percent of terrorist strikes in the country originated from Waziristan.

The rugged region is also used by Al Qaeda and Taliban to launch attacks on Western troops operating in Afghanistan.

Pakistan is still reeling from four suicide attacks this month that killed more than 125 people. The attacks included the audacious weekend siege at the army's headquarters in the city of Rawalpindi.

Taliban in Waziristan claimed responsibility for three of the assaults and vowed to stage even deadlier ones to avenge Mehsud's death.

The US warned that the extremists were increasingly threatening Pakistan's authority, but said "we see no evidence that they are going to take over the state".