Jets, gunships pound militants' positions: 'Several mountain posts secured'

Posted in Broader Middle East | 21-Jul-04 | Source: dawn.com (Pakistan)

Pakistani paramilitary soldiers in their bunker on the outskits of Wana.
WANA, July 20: Pakistan Air Force jets and army helicopter gunships bombed militants' positions in Santoi and Mantoi mountain regions in the South Waziristan tribal area on Tuesday.

With fierce clashes continuing, families were seen leaving the area. Witnesses said air strikes were launched after security forces captured some key locations, north of the Shakai Valley, and bombed militants' positions on hilltops.

The Director-General Inter Services Public Relations, Maj-Gen Shaukat Sultan, told Dawn from Islamabad that security forces arrested one militant and seized a rocket launcher. He added that the identity of the arrested militant had yet to be ascertained.

Unofficial reports said that four soldiers of the 10 Punjab Regiment and two tribesmen were killed in Tuesday's clashes while three other army troops sustained injuries. However, the ISPR spokesman denied that the army had suffered any casualty.

Officials and witnesses said that F-7 planes and helicopter gunships carried out massive bombardment on militants' positions in Santoi, Mantoi and Dand areas. Maj-Gen Sultan said that the security forces operating in the region were using weapons and fire-power as per operational requirements.

He did not say anything about the use of jets and helicopters. Long-range artillery was used from Tiarza and Zari Noor Brigade Headquarters targeting hideouts of foreign and tribal militants in the mountains.

Residents in Shakai said that security forces had moved further towards Santoi, Mantoi and Dand where several locations had been secured. The PAF warplanes also dropped bombs on the peaks of the forested Bosh Ghar mountain.

Reports said that intense fighting was underway between the security forces and militants who were hiding in the mountains on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border and using rockets, missiles, mortar shells and heavy machine-guns against the troops.

Local people said that despite massive shellings and bombings, the militants were offering tough resistance to paramilitary forces and regular troops. Due to the bombing and artillery fire, incidents of forest fire had been reported from the Bosh Ghar area, posing threat to pine-nut trees.

The political authorities shifted 12 of the 26 tribesmen who had surrendered on Monday to Peshawar for interrogation, an official said in Wana on Tuesday. These tribesmen are accused of sheltering foreign militants in Shakai.

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