Zarb-e-Azb: Airstrikes kill 18 militants in Khyber district

ISLAMABAD:  As many as 18 militants were killed in air attacks by Pakistan army on Sunday in a troubled tribal district near the Afghan border.

The strikes took place Saturday night in Khyber district, where the Taliban and another banned militant group the Lashkar-e-Islam have taken refuge, the military said in a statement. It said a huge cache of arms and ammunition was also destroyed.

Pakistan has been battling Islamist groups in its semi-autonomous tribal belt since 2004 after its army entered the region to search for Al-Qaeda fighters who had fled across the border following the US-led invasion of Afghanistan.

In June the army began an offensive against militant hideouts in the North Waziristan tribal agency after a bloody raid on Karachi Airport ended faltering peace talks between the government and the Taliban.

North Waziristan is a major base for the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan.

The United States has long called for action against militant groups in North Waziristan, who have used the area as a staging post for attacks against NATO forces in Afghanistan.

Pakistan s army says it has killed more than a thousand militants and lost 86 soldiers since the start of the operation.

But the toll and identity of those killed is difficult to verify because journalists do not have regular access to the conflict zones.

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