Pakistani fighter jets pounded suspected Taliban hideouts in the tribal North Waziristan region and killed nearly 80 militants on Sunday, the army said, in response to an audacious attack on the country’s busiest airport a week ago.
The army said ethnic Uzbeks accounted for most of those killed in the latest air assault in a region which borders Afghanistan and is home to some of Pakistan’s most feared militants and al Qaeda commanders.
It was not immediately known whether there were any civilian casualties. Journalists’ movements are restricted in the ethnic Pashtun region where the army has imposed a curfew.
“Fighter jets targeted militant hideouts in the village of Dagan near the Pakistani-Afghan border,” said one source in the regional capital of Miranshah.
“An important Uzbek commander, Abdul Rehman, has been killed in the air strike,” he said, adding that Rehman was directly involved in masterminding the Karachi airport attack.
Military sources said a number of ethnic Uighur militants, who operate alongside Uzbeks and share a similar Turkic language with them, have also been killed.
The official account could not be independently verified and there was no immediate comment from the Taliban.
China believes that Uighur separatists based in Pakistan’s tribal areas are behind an insurgency against Han Chinese in its restive Xinjiang province, although their exact numbers in Pakistan are unknown.