Air strikes on Taliban hideouts kill 15 in northwest Pakistan

Photo: Air strikes on Taliban hideouts kill 15 in northwest Pakistan / Other News

Pakistan has carried out early morning air strikes in the restive Tirah Valley area of the Khyber tribal district, killing at least 15 people, according to a statement by the military, AFP reported.

The statement added that "nine terrorist hideouts were destroyed" in the raids on Tuesday, which came after the Taliban stormed Pakistan's biggest airport, killing at least 30 people in an all-night battle on Monday.

Thirty people were killed in siege on Karachi airport.

The assault has left Pakistan's nascent peace process with the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) in tatters and officials in the northwest reported that about 25,000 people had fled a restive tribal district in the past 48 hours, fearing a long-awaited ground offensive.

Ten militants were among the dead in the assault on Karachi's Jinnah International Airport, the latest spectacular offensive to be launched by the TTP in an insurgency that has claimed thousands of lives since 2007.

Authorities were checking reports that seven airport workers were trapped in cold-storage facilities after apparently shutting themselves inside to escape the carnage.

"We are looking into this and according to the families some seven people were trapped inside the cold storage and were in contact with the families on cell phone," said Abid Qaimkhani, a spokesman for the Civil Aviation Authority.

The attack began just before midnight on Sunday. At around dawn, the military said that all 10 of the attackers had been killed.

Some of the gunmen were dressed in army uniform, as authorities put their mangled bodies, assault rifles, grenades and rocket launchers on show for the press. At least three detonated their suicide vests, witnesses said, and one severed head formed part of the grisly display.

"The main objective of the terrorists was to destroy the aircraft on the ground, but there was only minor damage to two to three aircraft," Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan told a press conference at the airport late Monday.

"Pakistan's national assets are safe and secure."

Washington condemned the attack and offered to assist with the investigation.

UN chief Ban Ki-moon also condemned the airport siege and a separate attack in the southwest targeting Shi'ite Muslims, which a local official said killed at least 24 pilgrims.

Ban was "deeply concerned by this upsurge of violence across Pakistan" and urged the government to increase its efforts to address terrorism and religious extremism, his spokesman Stephane Dujarric said in a statement.

The bodies of the 18 victims - including 11 airport security guards and four workers from Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) - were taken to a Karachi hospital where another 26 wounded people were being treated, a hospital official said.

The charred remains of two cargo terminal employees were later recovered on Monday night, bring the toll to 30, Qaimkhani said.

PIA spokesman Mashud Tajwar said no airline passengers were caught up in the incident.

In restive North Waziristan tribal district, about 1000 kilometres north of Karachi, residents and officials told AFP 58,000 people, mainly women and children had fled the area for different parts of the northwest, fearing a long-awaited offensive was imminent.

The exodus has increased rapidly in recent days, with more than 25,000 fleeing their homes in the last 48 hours alone, a government official in Peshawar said.

"I am taking my family to a safer location," said one resident who did not wish to be named.

Follow us on Twitter @TRENDNewsAgency