Pakistani forces report killing 15 Taliban militants

Islamabad, May 30 (DPA) Pakistani jet fighters and artillery Sunday pounded militants’ positions in the country’s lawless tribal region, killing at least 15 rebels, a security official said.

A local intelligence official said the jets targeted six Taliban positions in three villages in the Orakzai tribal district, where Pakistani forces have been fighting Islamist insurgents since late March.

‘Our local sources have reported that 10 terrorists died and four were injured in the airstrikes,’ said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. ‘Jets destroyed all six hideouts.’

A second intelligence official, who also requested anonymity, said that artillery fire had separately demolished several militant dens in three other villages in the same district.

‘Five miscreants died and six were injured in this action,’ he said.

Orakzai became a flash point in the tribal region when government troops moved into the district to pursue militants fleeing an earlier offensive in the neighbouring South Waziristan tribal district.

Pakistani media have cited army officials as saying that several weeks of combat have left more than 900 militants and 18 troops dead.

The figures cannot be confirmed independently, as access to the mountainous region is very limited for aid workers and journalists.

The offensive has displaced more than 200,000 people from the district, which is also the home district of Taliban chief Hakimullah Mehsud.

The Taliban have intensified retaliatory attacks in main cities as Pakistani forces push deep into the militants’ main land – seven mountainous districts in the tribal region – apparently to divert the attention of law-enforcement agencies.

Four gunmen raided two mosques of the religious minority Ahmadi community in the country’s second most populated city of Lahore Friday, killing 98 people.

More than 100 people were wounded in the bomb-and-gun attacks, which were carried out as hundreds of people were conducting Friday prayers.

Meanwhile, suspected militants fired upon a passenger vehicle Sunday, killing two women and wounding five other people in the Kurram tribal district, local government official Nasim Shah said.