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Asia-pacific

At least 48 Islamist militants killed in airstrike near Afghan border

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2010-04-10

Pakistani fighter jets bombed a militant position in the Khyber region on the Afghan border on Saturday, killing at least 48 people. The strike targeted a meeting of Lahskar-e-Islam militants, destroying two of their hideouts.

AFP - At least 48 militants were killed Saturday in a gunfight and an airstrike in Pakistan's northwestern tribal areas bordering Afghanistan, officials said.
   
The airstrike targeted a meeting of Lashkar-e-Islam, an Islamist group blamed for attacking NATO supply convoys, in the remote Tirah valley of Khyber tribal district, they said.
   
"At least 42 militants of Lashkar-e-Islam were killed and two militant hideouts were also destroyed," Khyber administration chief Shafeerullah Wazir told AFP.
   
"The death toll may rise as dozens of others were also injured in the airstrike."
   
A military official and another tribal administration official confirmed the incident and death toll.
   
"The airstrike was launched on a tip-off that a meeting of the Lashkar-e-Islam group was going on in Tirah," the military official told AFP.
   
Lashkar-e-Islam, which means Army of Islam, is a criminal homegrown Islamist group with ties to the Taliban that has stirred up trouble in Khyber and attacked NATO supply vehicles travelling through the area.
   
Khyber is on the main NATO land supply route through Pakistan into Afghanistan, where more than 121,000 foreign forces are battling to reverse an escalating Taliban insurgency, now into its ninth year.
   
The district neighbours the northwestern city of Peshawar, increasingly on the frontline of Taliban and Al-Qaeda-linked bomb attacks.
   
Pakistan has launched several operations in the past two years in Khyber to flush out militants.
   
Separately, a Pakistani solider and six Taliban militants were killed in a gunfight in South Waziristan, another tribal district where the military has launched a major ground and air offensive since last October.
   
The clash took place in the town of Sararogha when militants attacked a security forces post early Saturday, a military statement said.
   
It was not possible to verify death tolls as the areas are under military operations and out of bounds for media and aid workers.
   
Pakistan also launched a punishing assault against Taliban militants in Orakzai, another tribal district, last month and the operation entered its 18th day on Saturday.
   
The military has announced a running death toll of more than 100 militants in the Orakzai operation since March 24.
   
The United Nations Friday said that since November 200,000 civilians have fled from the districts of Orakzai and Kurram, which have been hit by Taliban and Al-Qaeda linked militancy as well as sectarian violence.
   
US officials consider northwest Pakistan a haven for Al-Qaeda and Taliban militants who fled the 2001 US-led invasion of Afghanistan to regroup and launch attacks on foreign troops across the border.

Date created : 2010-04-10

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