60 militants killed in northwest Pakistan


Islamabad : At least 60 militants were killed as Pakistani jets and helicopter gunships pounded several suspected Taliban hideouts in northwest Pakistan, officials said.

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The army claimed that two hideouts were bombarded in Piochar and surrounding areas of restive Swat district in the North West Frontier Province.

“According to preliminary information gathered from local sources, up to 60 militants have died in the strikes,” said Major Nasir Ali, a military spokesman in the area.

The airstrikes came hours after one of two Chinese engineers kidnapped by Taliban two months ago escaped from captivity and reached a security post. His colleague was recaptured in the same district.

However, it was not immediately clear whether the strikes were linked to the Chinese engineer’s escape or were part of regular military action against militants.

The engineers were abducted on Aug 29 together with their local driver and a security guard in Dir, when they were returning after repairing a communications tower of the China Mobile Pakistan Company.

Swat valley, formerly a popular tourist destination, has seen increasing violence since 2007 when thousands of troops moved in to quell the armed campaign launched by radical cleric Maulana Fazlullah and his followers to enforce Taliban rule in the region.

A brief lull in the violence came earlier this year when the new civilian government started peace talks with the Swat militants and reached an agreement with them in April.