March 25, 2010 / 6:07 PM / 10 years ago

Pakistani jets kill nearly 50 in tribal region

HANGU, Pakistan, March 25, (Reuters) - Pakistani jets pounded suspected Taliban positions in a one-two punch on Thursday that killed nearly 50 people, most of them militants, in a restive tribal region in the northwest, officials said.

The two attacks targeted a school used by the Taliban as well as a madrasa or Islamic seminary in the Mamuzai area of the Orakzai Agency, an ethnic Pashtun tribal region where many militants fled to escape an army offensive further south.

"Twenty-five bodies of militants have been recovered from the school," Asghar Khan, a government official, told Reuters by telephone from Kalaya, the main town of Orakzai.

He said 13 militants were killed in the madrasa.

However, he said a nearby centre of Tablighi Jamaat, a non-violent non-political group involved in Islamic preaching, was also hit in the strike. "Ten people were killed in the Tablighi centre," he added.

There was no independent confirmation.

Khan said the seminary was a major hideout of the militants loyal to Maulvi Toofan, a local commander of Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), the main alliance of Pakistan's homegrown militants.

Orakzai is a considered a Taliban stronghold because many members of the Pakistani Taliban fled there after military offensives drove them from South Waziristan late last year. Orakzai is one of Pakistan's seven tribal regions, known as agencies, and is a stronghold of TTP chief Hakimullah Mehsud, who is widely believed to have been killed in a missile strike by a U.S. drone aircraft in South Waziristan in January.

The Pakistani military has stepped up air strikes in Orakzai and the neighbouring Kurram region in recent months, targeting militants who have fled military offensive in South Waziristan. (Reporting by Hasan Mehmood and Zeeshan Haider; Editing by Chris Allbritton and Alex Richardson) (For full coverage of Pakistan and Afghanistan, click on [ID:nAFPAK] (For more Reuters coverage of Afghanistan and Pakistan, see: here)

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