05/21/2014, 00.00
PAKISTAN
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Pakistan, air strike in North Waziristan: 32 dead among Taliban

Victims reported to include prominent figures of the Islamist guerrillas. Unconfirmed reports of injuries among civilians, including women and children. A rebel stronghold was the target of the attack. The Army continues its campaign, amid stalled peace talks between the government and the Taliban.

Islamabad ( AsiaNews / Agencies) - The death toll from a pre-dawn Pakistani army air strike at is of 32 militants dead, including leading figures of the Islamist insurgency. The attack was aimed at a remote tribal area of North Waziristan, a mountainous region in the north - east of the country, on the border with Afghanistan. An army source in Islamabad spoke of "targeted air strikes " which also hit "some commanders" of the fundamentalist militias, even no names were specified. The Army continues its military campaign against the Pakistani Taliban, amid stalled peace talks between the government and the Taliban in an attempt to end the violence in the country .

In North Waziristan, intelligence sources report that the target zone of the air raid was a hideout for "terrorists implicated in some recent attacks, including the bombing of a refugee camp in Peshawar , attacks in the tribal regions of Bajaur and Mohmand", as well as attacks on security forces in the region.

Local witnesses claim civilians were wounded in the air raid and that they include women and children, but there is no official confirmation. Independent verification is impossible because reporters are not allowed access to the area, considered a stronghold of the Taliban Islamists affiliated with al - Qaeda. For many governments, including Washington, it is the most dangerous area in the world.

The government launched peace talks with the Taliban in January, followed by the presentation last month of the first Code of Conduct on national security. Neither initiative stopped the spiral of Islamic extremist violence that has bloodied the country for some time now. If, on the one hand, the TTP has vowed to respect the cease- fire, on the other, Taliban militia groups have attacked institutions, police stations and military targets on several occasions. In response, the army has carried out a series of raids in the tribal areas against Islamist strongholds.

The truce between the government and Taliban expired on April 16 , but the Islamists have confirmed their intention to continue negotiations. Moreover, in the context of the talks, the Taliban demand the release of hundreds of prisoners, the army's withdrawal from the tribal areas bordering Afghanistan and the introduction of Islamic law (sharia).

With a population of more than 180 million people (97 per cent Muslim), Pakistan is the sixth most populous country in the world, the second largest Muslim nation after Indonesia. About 80 per cent of Muslims are Sunni, whilst Shias are 20 per cent. Hindus are 1.85 per cent, followed by Christians (1.6 per cent) and Sikhs (0.04 per cent). Violence against ethnic and religious minorities is commonplace across the country, with Shia Muslims and Christians as the main target, with things getting worse.

 

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