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Pakistani airstrikes kill 60 pro-Taliban militants

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Latest update : 2008-10-18

Pakistani jets have destroyed a pro-Taliban training camp deep in the mountains, killing 60 militants, according to a senior security official.

Airstrikes by Pakistani jets killed 60 pro-Taliban fighters in the restive northwest while a Chinese engineer seized seven weeks ago escaped from his kidnappers, security officials said Friday.
   
"Security forces destroyed a training camp and hideouts of militants in Peochar in Swat valley, killing 60 of them and injuring scores of others," a senior security official told AFP.
   
Another security official said fighter jets bombed a big training camp and cave hideouts of Taliban militants deep in the mountains, inflicting heavy casualties.
   
He said sources from the area confirmed that 60 militants were killed in the air strikes and the number could climb once bodies were retrieved from the caves.
   
Earlier Friday the military said a Chinese engineer had escaped his Taliban kidnappers and found his way to an army post.
   
The Taliban said one of two Chinese hostages they were holding had gone missing, while the other had been severely injured in the escape bid.
   
The men went missing along with their local driver and a security guard on August 29 in northwest Pakistan near the Afghan border where they had been checking an installation.
   
Pakistan has been under severe pressure from the Chinese government over the hostages, with Beijing publicly requesting that Islamabad rescue them.
   
"One Chinese engineer has been recovered," army spokesman Colonel Nadeem Ahmed said, without giving further details.
   
Taliban spokesman Muslim Khan told AFP the second hostage was injured before he was re-captured.
   
"Last night an incident happened after which one Chinese engineer was hurt and the other went missing," Khan said.
   
A separate Taliban source said the hostages were being moved from one location to another when they tried to escape.
   
He said the re-captured man had severely injured his leg falling down a steep mountain slope.
   
"They were near the town of Matta in the Swat valley when they made a run for it," he said.
   
Army officials who declined to be named said the man who escaped had come into contact with local anti-Taliban tribesmen who guided him to a nearby army post.
   
Security forces in mountainous Swat, a former tourist region dubbed the "Switzerland of Pakistan," have been battling pro-Taliban militants who tried to enforce harsh Islamic Sharia law a year ago.
   
The Taliban have demanded the government release 122 fighters captured in the area during the ongoing military operation.
   
In the latest militant attack, a suicide bomber rammed a vehicle packed with explosives into a Swat valley police station on Thursday, killing four people and destroying the building.
   
Pakistan's President Asif Ali Zardari completed a four-day state visit to China on Friday, though it was unclear if the fate of the hostages was discussed.
   
The local driver and security man were released soon after they were kidnapped.
   
Islamic militants have been known in the past to target Chinese workers in Pakistan. China is one of Islamabad's closest allies as well as its largest arms supplier.
   
In 2004, Islamic militants led by a former Guantanamo Bay prisoner, Abdullah Mehsud, kidnapped two Chinese engineers working on a multi-million dollar hydroelectric dam project in the South Waziristan tribal area.
   
One of the hostages died in a botched rescue bid.
   
Elsewhere Friday, Pakistani helicopter gunships and fighter jets pounded militant hideouts in a Pakistani tribal region bordering Afghanistan, killing 10 rebels, an official said.
   
The bombardment took place in Bajaur where Pakistani troops and Islamic extremists have been locked in fierce fighting since August.

Date created : 2008-10-18

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