Pakistan strikes kill ‘key militant commanders’

North Waziristan is a tribal area known as a stronghold of Taliban and al-Qaeda-linked militants

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The death toll from Pakistani air strikes on militant hideouts in the North Waziristan tribal district reached 60 on Wednesday, according to a statement issued by the military.

"As per reports so far, 60 hardcore terrorists including some of the important commanders and foreigners were also killed in the strikes and around 30 were injured," the statement said.

An AFP reporter in the district said helicopter gunships and ground troops were pounding targets in and around the town of Mir Ali and tribesmen had been ordered to evacuate.

An intelligence official in North Waziristan said the strikes were carried out in Miranshah, the main town of North Waziristan, Mir Ali, Datta Khel and Ghulam Ali areas.

There were reports of some civilian casualties including women and children but the security official did not confirm them.

North Waziristan is one of the seven semi-autonomous tribal areas, known as a stronghold of Taliban and al-Qaeda-linked militants.

Washington calls the region the most dangerous place in the world.

The latest attack comes weeks after the Pakistani Taliban formally ended a ceasefire called to promote talks with the government aimed at ending the militants’ bloody seven-year insurgency.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s government began negotiations with the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) through intermediaries in February, with the ceasefire beginning March 1.

Since the TTP launched their insurgency in 2007, more than 6,800 people have been killed in bomb and gun attacks around Pakistan, according to an AFP tally.

There have also been clashes between supporters of TTP commander Khan Said Sajna and followers of the late TTP leader Hakimullah Mehsud.

The group has long been riven by infighting and the feud began after Sajna, a senior commander, was rejected for the leadership following the killing of then-leader Mehsud last November, militants say.

Sajna had been seen as a strong candidate to become TTP chief following Mehsud’s death.

But the movement’s ruling council at the last minute elected Mullah Fazlullah, who hails from Swat and is believed to be hiding in Afghanistan.

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