02/20/2014, 00.00
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Pakistan: air strike on tribal area, 15 militants dead. Talks between Islamabad and Taliban at standstill

Overnight air force raid on a stronghold of the Islamist fighters in the area of Mir Ali, on the border with Afghanistan. Among the victims 13 foreign fighters, weapons and ammunition destroyed. The operation in response to the killing of 23 soldiers held by Taliban since 2010. Peace talks at a standstill after the cancellation of February 18 encounter.

Islamabad (AsiaNews / Agencies ) - Pakistan's air force launched an overnight offensive against (a suspected) stronghold of Islamist fighters in the northwest  killing at least 15 people. The raids were concentrated around the town of Mir Ali and in the surrounding areas of North Waziristan, on the border with Afghanistan.  According to military sources, the air strikes hit only extremist militants sparing the civilian population. The army's offensive comes at a time of deadlock in peace talks between the government in Islamabad and the Taliban, promoted by the executive of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to bring peace in the country, but in fact the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP ) is willing to give up their weapons only at the price of a complete "Islamization" and "Talibanisation" of the state.

An aviation official said that the raids were carried out with great precision, in order to "hit militant hideouts".  He added that "a huge quantity of arms and ammunition" were also destroyed in the attack.  "15 people were killed - said the source - of which 13 were foreign fighters".

In recent days, a Taliban militant group in the tribal area of Mohmand admitted killing 23 soldiers captured in 2010 and since then in the hands of the Islamists. News of these deaths sparked the ire of the military leadership in Islamabad who did not delay in their response.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has condemned the brutal killings of paramilitaries, pointing out that it could have a negative impact on peace talks - currently stalled - with the Taliban. In response to the killings, government negotiators have canceled a meeting with the Taliban scheduled for February 18.

Officially the higher ranks of the army support the government initiative to open dialogue with the Islamists, but behind the scenes and they do not hide growing frustration and there are rumors that they will use any excuse - such as the death of the paramilitaries - to launch heavy attacks. Over the past five months more than 100 soldiers have died because of the attacks unleashed by the Taliban, which is why the idea of ​​a large-scale army operation is becoming increasingly likely, in spite of official statements.


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