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30 reported dead after Pakistani airstrikes on suspected militant hideouts

By Jethro Mullen and Sophia Saifi, CNN
updated 2:32 AM EST, Wed February 26, 2014
Pakistani tribal families flee after airstrikes on Taliban hideouts in North Waziristan on February 24, 2014.
Pakistani tribal families flee after airstrikes on Taliban hideouts in North Waziristan on February 24, 2014.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The latest strikes hit loosely governed tribal regions that border Afghanistan
  • They come after peace talks with the Taliban broke down last week
  • The military has carried out a series of recent airstrikes that have killed scores
  • A Pakistani official says the military is trying to push the Haqqani network out of Pakistan

Islamabad, Pakistan (CNN) -- The Pakistani military on Tuesday continued its deadly campaign of airstrikes against alleged militant hideouts in the country's northwest, a week after the government's peace talks with the Pakistani Taliban broke down.

The series of recent bombing raids in a region considered a stronghold for extremist groups has killed scores of people and raised the question of whether a broader offensive is afoot.

"Reportedly, 30 terrorists were killed in early morning airstrikes on militants' hideouts," the military said in a statement Tuesday.

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The strikes were carried out in the Shawal Valley, which lies between North and South Waziristan, loosely governed tribal areas that border Afghanistan. They also targeted the village of Ghariom in North Waziristan, the military said.

The strikes demolished some hideouts, military officials said.

The area is dangerous and hard for journalists to reach, making it difficult to independently verify the military's account or to determine if any civilians have been killed or wounded.

On February 19, the military carried out airstrikes in tribal areas that it said killed 15 people in North Waziristan and seven people in Khyber agency, another tribal area. "Foreign fighters" were among those killed, it said.

More airstrikes took place in the northwest over the weekend, targeting militants in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province and the tribal areas. The military said the weekend strikes killed 38 people.

Thousands of residents of the tribal areas have been fleeing the area amid the intensifying violence.

About 36,000 individuals have fled North and South Waziristan in the past month, said Arshad Khan, the director general of the tribal areas' Disaster Management Authority. Many of them have been taking refuge in Bannu, a district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province that borders the tribal areas, he said.

The Pakistani government said last week it had indefinitely suspended peace talks with the Pakistani Taliban.

The talks, between Taliban intermediaries and a government-appointed committee, lasted for about 13 days. But the militant group carried out several deadly attacks targeting security forces and civilians during that time, including the execution of 23 abducted members of Pakistan's Frontier Corps, prompting the government to halt the negotiations.

The military has stepped up its attacks on militant groups since then.

Deepening the mistrust on the Pakistani Taliban side, a leading member of the group was killed in a shooting in North Waziristan earlier this week, said Shahidullah Shahid, a Taliban spokesman.

He blamed the Pakistani military intelligence agency and the CIA for the killing of Asmatullah Shaheen Battani, who briefly served as interim leader of the Pakistani Taliban last year after the group's former chief Hakimullah Mehsud was killed in a U.S. drone strike.

The Pakistani military declined to comment Wednesday on the Taliban's accusations.

A senior Pakistani government official on Tuesday told CNN's Jim Sciutto that the military was engaged in an offensive in North Waziristan to try to push the Haqqani network, an insurgent force affiliated with the Taliban and al Qaeda, out of Pakistan and across the border into Afghanistan.

READ: Pakistani military airstrikes targeting militants kill 15

READ: Pakistan suspends peace talks with Pakistani Taliban

CNN's Sophia Saifi reported from Islamabad, and Jethro Mullen wrote from Hong Kong. Journalists Adeel Raja, Saleem Mehsud and Zahir Shah Sherazi, and CNN's Ben Brumfield contributed to this report.

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