Pakistani fighter jets pounded Taliban hide-outs near the Afghan border on Sunday, killing 17 insurgents, local officials said.
The hide-outs were in the village of Mero Bak in the Taliban stronghold of the Lower Orakzai tribal region, said Rasheed Khan, an Orakzai official. The air attack killed nine militants, he added. One of the bombed houses belonged to a local Taliban commander, Aslam Farooqi, but it was not clear if he was among those killed. Jabir Gul, another local official, said the bombing in neighboring Upper Orakzai killed eight more Taliban fighters. Orakzai is the base of Pakistani Taliban chief Hakimullah Mehsud, who officials believe was killed in a US missile strike early this year. The group insists he is alive, but has not provided any evidence.
Violence has surged in Pakistan in recent days as militants _ thought to be part of a loose network of Islamist insurgents fighting the US-allied Islamabad government _ launched a wave of suicide bombings. The attacks have killed 88 people in a little over a week.
On Saturday, a suicide bomber killed 13 people at a security checkpoint in the Swat Valley in northwestern Pakistan. Elsewhere in Pakistan, suspected militants tried to blow up a NATO oil tanker on Sunday in the southwestern province of Baluchistan, near the Afghan border, police official Zia Mandokhel said. A bomb, planted in the truck's undercarriage, misfired, causing just a hole in the tanker and an oil spill, he said. A civilian was injured.
The incident occurred in the border town of Chaman along an important route for NATO supplies heading into Afghanistan. Militants regularly target trucks taking supplies to U.S. and allied forces in Afghanistan.