MIRANSHAH: Pakistani jets launched multiple strikes on Taliban hideouts in the northwest on Thursday, killing at least 43 in retaliation for a string of attacks by the militants which has derailed peace talks.
The first strike confirmed by security officials came early Thursday when jets bombed several locations including a compound in the town of Mir Ali and surrounding areas of North Waziristan.
“There are confirmed reports of 15 militants including foreigners killed in these airstrikes,” a senior security official told AFP on condition of anonymity.
A second targeted militants hiding in the Khyber tribal district who are suspected of bombing a cinema in Peshawar last week and killing an army major on Tuesday, a second security official said.
The twin strikes and spiralling violence leaves a troubled peace process between the government and the insurgents in further doubt just three weeks after talks began.
The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Taliban (TTP) had offered a ceasefire on Wednesday on condition that government forces stopped killing and arresting their members.
Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif announced the start of talks on January 29 to “give peace another chance” following a seven-year insurgency that has claimed nearly 7,000 lives.
But after several rounds of talks, government mediators pulled out of scheduled dialogue with their Taliban counterparts on Monday amid outrage over the execution of 23 kidnapped soldiers.
On Sunday, a faction of the Islamist movement from Mohmand near the Afghan border said they had executed the soldiers who were seized in the area in June 2010.
Despite the new bloodshed, Professor Ibrahim Khan, a Taliban peace negotiator, told AFP Thursday that the chance of a settlement remained alive.
“The bad effects are very visible but even then we will continue our struggle for the establishment of peace,” he told AFP. “Negotiations are the only way. There is no other way.”