Pakistan fighter jets target militant hideouts near Afghan border

ISLAMABAD Thu Apr 24, 2014 1:04am EDT

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ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - Pakistani fighter jets pounded suspected militant hideouts near the Afghan border on Thursday in response to a spate of attacks around the country, the army said, in the first aerial operation against Taliban insurgents in two months.

The operation came despite efforts by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's government to engage the Taliban in talks to end years of fighting with an insurgency seeking to topple the democratically elected government in the capital Islamabad.

"Terrorist hideouts were engaged by fighter jets in Khyber agency early (in the) morning today," the army's press wing said in a text message sent to media.

It said it was a response to a number of recent attacks against police and civilians in Islamabad and Peshawar, a volatile Pakistani city near the Khyber tribal agency.

A senior military official in Peshawar said the operation, which started early on Thursday, was still under way.

"After the jets, Pakistan army ground forces also launched operations in the area," he said.

Another military official said at least 15 militants were killed, but there was no official confirmation.

Last week the Pakistani Taliban - a loose alliance of militant groups separate from but allied to the Afghan Taliban - formally ended a 40-day ceasefire but attempts to resume talks have continued nonetheless.

Representatives of both sides met in Islamabad on Wednesday, agreeing to pave the way for the next round of negotiations aimed at finding a compromise that would convince the Taliban to lay down their weapons.

(Reporting Maria Golovnina in ISLAMABAD and Jibran Ahmed in Peshawar; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)

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