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Pakistan's Army Launches More Air Strikes In North Waziristan


Families cross a military check post as they flee after air strikes on Taliban hideouts in North Waziristan, February 24, 2014.
Pakistan's Army launched another wave of air strikes in the tribal region of North Waziristan on February 25, targeting militant hideouts and killing at least 30 suspected fighters from Pakistan's Taliban.

The latest air strikes took place mainly in the Shawal Valley and Dattakhel areas of North Waziristan, where militant training facilities and compounds are said to be located.

Pakistani fighter jets have been launching attacks in the area since the government's efforts to engage Taliban insurgents in peace negotiations broke down earlier this month.

Residents of North Waziristan have been trickling out of the troubled region in recent days amid fears that a full-scale military offensive is pending.

Many who have been leaving their homes and villages have been settling in less volatile areas such as Bannu, Kohat, and the city of Peshawar.

But even those areas, correspondents report that tensions are high and security officials are on high alert.

Suicide Bomber

In Peshawar on February 24, two security guards were killed when a suicide bomber blew himself up outside the Iranian consulate.

At least 10 people reportedly were wounded in that attack, which occurred in an area that includes the offices of foreign diplomatic missions and nongovernmental organizations.

A spokesman for a militant group led by jihadist Mast Gul claimed responsibility for the attack.

Mast Gul is a Pakistani jihadist who once fought against Indian rule in Kashmir.

Also on February 24, local residents and intelligence sources in North Waziristan told RFE/RL's Radio Mashaal that the former acting chief of the Pakistani Taliban was killed.

The sources said that senior Taliban commander Asmatullah Shaheen Bhittani was killed in a shootout with unknown attackers in the Darga Mandai area near Miranshah, the administrative headquarters of North Waziristan.

Bhittani's driver and two of his bodyguards also reportedly were killed.

Bhittani had been appointed caretaker chief of the Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP) after the death of Hakimullah Mehsud in a U.S. drone strike last year.

Radio Mashaal says Bhittani had been playing a key role in ongoing efforts to establish peace talks with the government in Islamabad.

With reporting by Reuters and AFP.
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