* Jets target six hideouts in Upper and Lower Orakzai
* Houses owned by two Taliban commanders and used as training centres also destroyed
HANGU: At least 18 Taliban were killed on Sunday when fighter jets bombed their hideouts in Orajzai Agency on Sunday, according to government officials.
The political administration officials told Daily Times that PAF jets targeted six Taliban hideouts in Upper and Lower Orakzai. The Reuters news agency quoted a government official as saying that three of the hideouts had been destroyed. “They carried out intense bombings and precisely targeted militant hideouts,” he said.
The AFP news agency reported that houses owned by two commanders had also been destroyed. An administrative official said the houses were also being used as “training centres”.
A government girls’ high school was also damaged in the bombing.
Locals said the government was preparing for a “grand operation” against the Taliban in the agency, as additional troops had been deployed at in Lower Orakzai and security forces had sealed off all main routes leading to Orakzai Agency. A military official, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed the shelling.
Orakzai is the base of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan chief Hakimullah Mehsud, who officials believe was killed in a US drone strike early this year. The group insists he is alive, but has not provided any evidence.
Pakistan has, in the last year, significantly increased operations against the Taliban in the tribal belt, which Washington has branded an Al Qaeda “headquarters” and “the most dangerous region on earth”.
The rugged tribal terrain became a stronghold for hundreds of extremists who fled neighbouring Afghanistan after the US-led invasion in late 2001. Washington says the Taliban use the semi-autonomous tribal belt to plot and stage attacks in Afghanistan, where more than 120,000 NATO and US troops are helping Afghan forces battle the group.
The airstrikes on Sunday came after a week of bombings which killed scores of people – including soldiers, policemen and aid workers – in Pakistan. On Saturday, a suicide bomber killed 13 people at a security checkpoint in the Swat valley, and earlier on Friday, twin suicide bombings at Lahore’s RA Bazaar killed more than 50 people and injured scores of others.