Militant violence leaves 30 people dead in Pakistan


Islamabad : At least 30 people were killed Tuesday in militant violence in Pakistan’s restive tribal region bordering Afghanistan as the country’s military asked external powers to stop demanding it to do more against Islamic militancy.

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Pakistani military jet aircraft attacked militant positions in Kandharo village of Mohmand tribal region before ground troops moved in to clear the area.

“The airstrike inflicted heavy casualties on the insurgents. At least 24 militants were confirmed killed in the offensive,” an official of the Frontier Corps paramilitary force said on condition of anonymity.

Several other rebels were also wounded, he said without giving any figures. The casualty toll could not be confirmed independently.

“Our soldiers have secured vast swathes of land after the assault,” the official said.

Mohmand borders the Bajaur tribal district where government troops, backed by tanks, artillery and helicopter gunships, began a major offensive in August against Al Qaeda and Taliban militants, who crossed into the region from Afghanistan to escape the coalition forces.

Militant activity in Mohmand surged after the Bajaur operation in which the military had so far claimed to have killed more than 1,500 fighters.

The US and other western forces hailed the intense offensive, saying it helped reduce cross-border attacks on the international troops fighting the Taliban.

Tuesday’s assault in Mohmand came as US Central Command chief General David Petraeus arrived in Islamabad for talks with Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari, Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani and Chief of the Army Staff General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani.

Petraeus said he had “very good” meetings and both sides discussed actions taken by Pakistan in the aftermath of the Nov 26 Mumbai attacks as well as the country’s counter-terrorism initiatives in the northwest.

“It is clearly in the interest of all countries involved that Pakistan succeeds in dealing with its internal problems,” Petraeus told reporters.

The US general said Washington would increase its support for Pakistan to fight militancy in its northwestern regions, adding that more focus would be put on coordination between military commanders on both sides of the Afghan border.

This applause came merely a day after British Defence Secretary John Hutton said in an interview during his Islamabad visit that Pakistan needed do more in its fight against militancy.

Without making a mention of Hutton’s demand, Pakistan’s Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee General Tariq Majid angrily demanded that “external players” stop asking Pakistan “to do more and prove sincerity.

“Such international players must come out from the coercive mindset and instead start delivering on the promised capacity assistance to help Pakistan in dealing with the problem,” he said.

The general added that Pakistan does not need to prove to anyone about its sincerity considering the huge sacrifices it has made and is continuing to make which can not be matched by any of those players making these demands.

“Such unhelpful statements must stop.”

Meanwhile, Taliban militants killed six alleged US spies in the tribal district of North Waziristan.

“Four bodies were found in Mir Ali area, while two bodies were dumped in Miranshah,” said an intelligence official who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Notes left with the bodies alleged that they had been spying for the US, he added.