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Central & South Asia

Scores killed in Pakistan air raid and blast

Air strikes on the Tirah valley and a bomb blast in the city of Kohat leave at least 50 people killed.

Last updated: 24 Feb 2014 05:31
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The conflict between Taliban and Islamabad has claimed thousands of lives [AP]

Pakistani air strikes on hideouts of armed groups have killed at least 38 people, while a bomb planted near a bus stop killed 14 people in two separate incidents in the northwest of the country, officials say.

The Sunday morning strikes on the Tirah valley of the Khyber tribal district were Pakistan’s third military operation on the hideouts since February 20, retaliating to attacks by Pakistani Taliban and its linked groups that have derailed peace talks.

They follow the claimed execution of 23 Pakistani soldiers by a faction of Taliban last week, which cast doubts over dialogue initiated by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on January 29.

"There are confirmed reports that 38 terrorists including some important commanders were killed," a military statement quoted by AFP news agency said, adding that "six hideouts were completely destroyed".

Two days earlier, security officials said they killed over 30 fighters including 16 Uzbeks in the air strikes conducted also in the northwest of the country, infiltrated by the local and foreign fighters.

On Saturday, at least nine fighters were killed when Pakistani gunship helicopters pounded Taliban hideouts in Thall village in Hangu district near the tribal areas.

Deaths in bomb blast

In another violent incident on Sunday, a bomb planted near a bus stop killed at least 14 people including two women and a child in a northwestern Pakistani city.

Police said that at least 15 more were injured when the bomb went off in the city of Kohat in the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Police said around five kilogrammes of explosive material were planted in a cooking oil container and placed near the bus stop in the city centre before being detonated remotely.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, though Kohat has seen past attacks by local Taliban fighters and allied groups.

Police officials told Associated Press news agency that the vehicles targeted were bound for a Shia-majority area, and suspected that the minority Muslims could have been the target of the attack.

Northwestern provincial police chief Nasir Durrani said security forces have been conducting counter insurgency operations in the area.

After several rounds of talks, government mediators pulled out of scheduled dialogue with their Taliban counterparts on Monday amid outrage over the claimed execution of soldiers kidnapped near the Afghan border.

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