Pak forces shell out Taliban hideouts



Pak forces shell out Taliban hideouts Islamabad: Pakistani security forces on Wednesday used helicopter gunships and artillery to shell Taliban hideouts in the restive North Waziristan tribal region, a day after a roadside bomb attack in the area killed three soldiers, tribesmen said.

Scores of militants, several civilians and at least three soldiers were injured during the shelling and exchanges of fire, local journalists quoted security sources as saying. This was the first time in years that security forces used helicopters and artillery to bomb militant hideouts in North Waziristan.

The main Taliban faction in the region, led by commander Hafiz Gul Bahadur, denied involvement in yesterday's attack in Datta Khel area, 45 km from Miranshah, the main town in North Waziristan Agency.

Three soldiers were killed and 15 more injured in the attack.

Security forces dynamited a private hospital on the Miranshah-Datta Khel road this morning following reports that it was used by the militants to attack a security forces convoy yesterday.

The hospital belongs to the father of Kamran Khan, a local parliamentarian.

A Taliban group that is not part of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan said it had launched a campaign to identify those who had attacked the convoy yesterday.

"There will be no misunderstanding in the future," a militant spokesman told reporters in Miranshah.

Tribesmen closed shops in the main Miranshah market after security forces shelled militant positions at Darpakhel Srai on the outskirts of the town.

The local phone network was suspended for several hours, residents said.

Power supply too was suspended in parts of North Waziristan as at least 10 electricity transformers were damaged by the shelling, tribesmen said.

The security forces declared an alert and closed two main roadside checkpoints at Ali Shah and Khajori.

A militant spokesman said a 2007 peace deal with the government was still in place and the militants would trace and punish those behind yesterday's attack.

Tribal elders and religious leaders too vowed to punish the attackers under local traditions and asked the army and political administration to show restraint.

Taliban commanders and tribal elders acted quickly to avoid further escalation and authorities later lifted a curfew imposed in Miranshah and adjoining areas to ease tension.

Prominent local leaders, including Mauvi Gul Ramzan, Hafiz Noorullah Shah, Malik Jalal, Malik Eid Muhammad, Malik Farid and Maulvi Saleem Umar Gul, assured authorities that the attackers would not escape traditional punishment.

PTI