Monday, November 29, 1999

15 killed as Pakistani jets pound militant hideouts

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Islamabad, May 16 (DPA) Pakistani military jets Sunday pounded Taliban positions in the tribal district of Orakzai, killing at least 15 rebels, security officials said.The airstrikes came as the Islamist insurgents freed 50 people kidnapped a day earlier in the adjoining district of Kurram.A senior military official in Orakzai said the jets targeted four rebel hideouts believed to be used to prepare for an attack on the security forces.'All positions were engaged and destroyed effectively and our informers on the ground said that at least 15 terrorists died in these actions,' said the official, who requested anonymity because he was not authorised to speak to media.Major Fazal ur Rehman, a spokesman of paramilitary Frontier Corps that is spearheading the offensive on Taliban and Al Qaeda in the lawless tribal region, confirmed the attacks.'Initial reports say that 10 to 15 militants died but we are trying to ascertain the death toll.'Pakistani troops moved into Orakzai in March to quell the insurgency. The military claims that it has killed more than 700 militants, while losing 18 soldiers.The figures cannot be verified independently since the access to the areas remains very limited for the journalists and aid workers.Taliban militants Sunday freed 50 of the 60 people abducted from the adjoining Kurram district by dozens of militants dressed as policemen.Khalid Omarzai, a senior government official in the nearby Kohat district, said efforts were underway to gain the release of the other 10 people still held.Omarzai claimed the rebels released the captives unconditionally.The military is also conducting an operation against militants in Kurram district, which has been a scene of bloody clashes between Shiite and Sunni tribesmen as well as a rising Islamist insurgency.Sunni tribesmen get support from Taliban, who belong to the same sect.

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