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The Patriot Ledger, Quincy, MA
Feb 20, 7:13 AM EST

Pakistan says airstrikes have killed 'dozens' of militants


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AP Photo/Fareed Khan

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PESHAWAR, Pakistan (AP) -- Pakistani airstrikes killed "dozens" of militants on Monday in a tribal region along the Afghan border, the military said.

Pakistan had vowed to fight back after a series of suicide bombings last week killed more than 100 people, including 88 worshippers gathered at a famed Sufi shrine. The attacks were claimed by various Islamic militant groups, which have long operated in the porous border region.

The warplanes targeted militant hideouts in the Wucha Bibi area of North Waziristan, the Pakistani army said in a statement. The information could not be independently confirmed, as media access to the region is heavily restricted.

Pakistan carried out a blistering artillery assault on suspected terrorist camps in Afghanistan on Friday and Saturday after giving the Afghan government a list of 76 alleged Pakistani terrorists it said where sheltering there. The artillery assault displaced nearly 200 families, according to the Norwegian Refugee Council.

On Monday, the Afghan ambassador to Pakistan handed Islamabad a list of 85 suspected terrorist leaders that Kabul says have found refuge in Pakistan as well as the locations of 32 insurgent centers it wants Pakistan to destroy, an Afghan Foreign Ministry statement said.

"The initial response of the Pakistani authorities (to) the list this morning was positive and we are hopeful that practical measures should be taken," it said.

In a meeting with fellow officers on Monday, Pakistan's army chief, Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa, ordered his troops to cooperate with their Afghan counterparts in preventing militants from crossing the border.

Afghanistan and Pakistan have long accused each other of turning a blind eye to insurgents operating along the border. Pakistan says the latest wave of attacks was orchestrated by militants who fled its military operations in North Waziristan, and has closed two border crossings.

Pakistani authorities have also rounded up nearly 100 Afghan refugees in the southwestern city of Quetta, saying they were residing in the country illegally.

Police spokesman Shahzada Farhat said at least 35 people were in custody. Another 75 were picked up by a paramilitary force, said another official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to brief the media.

Pakistan is home to an estimated 2.5 million Afghan refugees who have fled decades of conflict in their country.

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Associated Press writer Abdul Sattar in Quetta, Pakistan, and Rahim Faiez in Kabul, Afghanistan contributed to this report.

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