Pakistani airstrikes kill 35 militants in tribal region
ISLAMABAD (AP) — Pakistani warplanes pounded militant sanctuaries near the northwestern Afghan border Sunday, killing 35 militants, the army said.
The airstrikes took place in the town of Datta Khel in the North Waziristan tribal region, the army said in a statement.
The Pakistani military has been conducting a major offensive in North Waziristan since June 2014. The military claims to have killed over 2000 militants and lost nearly 200 soldiers in the operation.
The lawless tribal region has long been a haven for local and foreign militants. It is off-limits to journalists, making almost impossible to independently verify the army’s claims.
For years the Pakistani government allowed militants to flourish in the tribal regions, despite warnings from the U.S. government — which frequently attacks insurgents there with drone strikes. Militant groups vowed revenge for the high death toll from the government offensive. On Dec. 16 last year, militants attacked an army-run school in the northwestern city of Peshawar, killing 150, mostly schoolchildren. Pakistani Taliban chief Mullah Fazlullah claimed responsibility for the attack as retaliation for the government offensive.
Both Pakistan and Afghanistan have long traded accusations of harboring the other’s militant groups. But in the wake of the school attack, both pledged greater cooperation on counter-terrorism. Gen. Shafiq Fazli, commander of the Afghan Border Police, arrived in Pakistan Sunday for a five-day visit as part of that reconciliation effort.
Elsewhere in Pakistan, thousands of protesters from a conservative religious movement rallied Sunday in the cities of Lahore and Karachi against the French magazine Charlie Hebdo. Siraj-ul-Haq, chief of Jamat-e-Islami Pakistan movement, demanded that the French government publicly apologize for the magazine’s caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad.