(NSI News Source Info) PESHAWAR, Pakistan- June 19, 2009: Pakistani fighter jets on Friday bombed Taliban militant hideouts in the northwest tribal belt, officials said, as the death toll from a suspected US missile strike in the area rose to 13. ‘The war planes targeted the places where Baitullah’s militants are active...we have unconfirmed reports of casualties.’ Up to three unmanned drone aircraft are reported to have dropped four missiles on a militant training school in the South Waziristan tribal zone on Thursday. The rugged northwest area is the stronghold of Pakistan Taliban chief Baitullah Mehsud. ‘Intelligence reports suggest the Taliban have dug out a total of 13 dead bodies, some of them badly mutilated,’ an administrative official based in Peshawar told AFP on Friday. Another security official in South Waziristan's main town Wana confirmed a death toll of 13, and said some of them were foreign fighters. Meanwhile, DawnNews said at least 11 suspected militants were reportedly killed in the strike. Pakistani war planes on Friday also hit targets in South Waziristan, apparently in preparation for a full-scale military onslaught into the hostile peaks to track down and eliminate Mehsud and his network. ‘Jet fighters on Friday started bombing suspected locations of Taliban militants in South Waziristan,’ said an intelligence official in Wana. ‘The war planes targeted the places where Baitullah Mehsud's militants are active... we have unconfirmed reports of casualties,’ he added. A military official in Peshawar said that the Taliban stronghold towns of Sarwakai and Barwand were targeted in the strikes. Madiyan was also among the targeted areas. In Khyber Agency, Pakistani jets continued their assault on militant positions in Landi Kotal. On the ground, security forces arrested four suspected militants from Landi Kotal's main bazaar. Further north in the Bajaur Agency, security forces continued to target militant hideouts in the Charman valley of Nawagai tehsil. Several militant hideouts were destroyed. Despite the curfew in Charmang, people were leaving the area in large numbers to escape the fighting. Pakistani security forces launched an offensive to dislodge Taliban guerrillas from three northwest districts around Swat valley in late April, after militants flouted a peace deal and thrust towards Islamabad. The army on Tuesday confirmed long-circulating rumours that the offensive would expand into the tribal belt, although it is unclear when a full-scale offensive involving ground troops will begin.
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