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Pakistani jets kill 6 militants in northwest

world Updated: Jul 22, 2009 10:45 IST

AP
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Pakistani fighter jets destroyed two suspected militant hide-outs near the Afghan border, killing six men believed to be associates of top local Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud, intelligence officials said on Wednesday.

The strikes in South Waziristan flattened the hide-outs of Mehsud's associates in two villages late on Tuesday, two intelligence officials said. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to media.

It was not possible to independently confirm the strikes or casualty figures in the remote area, where access for journalists is restricted.

Mehsud is accused of killing Pakistan's former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto and launching dozens of bomb and suicide attacks against security forces and civilians in the country. The air force and military have carried out several similar strikes against Mehsud and his men in the past two months. Although the military has said it will launch a major operation against Mehsud and his network, no formal announcement has been made about the start of such an offensive.

The strikes in Waziristan come as the military has been wrapping up an offensive against the Taliban in the Swat Valley and surrounding areas that began in late April. That campaign drove some 2 million people from their homes, according to the United Nations, but thousands have been returning in recent days as the military has declared the region largely cleared of militants. But fighting has continued in parts of Swat and neighboring districts. On Tuesday, the military said three days of clashes in the northwest near the border with Afghanistan had left more than 56 militants and six soldiers dead. There was no way of confirming the casualty figures.

The United States' special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, Richard Holbrooke, arrived in Pakistan late on Tuesday and was to meet with the country's leaders and top generals.

State Department spokesman Robert Wood said Holbrooke would be in Pakistan through Thursday and would also meet with citizens Swat, Buner, Malakand, Peshawar, Dera Ismail Khan and South Waziristan, regions all in the volatile northwest, before traveling on to Afghanistan.