Taliban pay the price for school massacre

Another 12 militants killed as Pakistani military and drone strikes target hideouts in tribal areas

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ISLAMABAD // At least 12 militants were killed on Saturday as Pakistan’s military’s pressed its offensive against the Taliban in response to the massacre of students at an army-run school last week.

At least five Taliban fighters were killed in two missile strikes by a US drone on a militant hideout in north-western Pakistan, security officials said.

In a separate operation, Pakistani security forces killed five “terrorists” on the outskirts of Peshawar, where the Pakistani Taliban killed 149 people, mainly children, in an attack on Tuesday.

The attack shocked the nation and prompted a massive military response in the tribal regions along the Afghan border, long-time strongholds of both foreign and local militants. Pakistani airstrikes and ground operations in the Khyber region – where the school attack is believed to have emanated – have killed around 200 militants so far.

“A US drone fired two missiles at a compound in Mada Khail neighbourhood of Datta Khail area in North Waziristan killing five militants,” a senior security official said. “The death toll is expected to rise.”

The men killed in the drone strike fought under local Pakistani Taliban commander Hafiz Gul Bahadur, officials said. It was not immediately clear if the drone strike was connected to the school massacre.

Pakistani troops have been carrying out a major operation against local and foreign militants in North Waziristan, one of the seven semi-autonomous tribal districts bordering Afghanistan, since June.

Police and paramilitary soldiers also killed two Pakistani Taliban militants in raids on suspected hideouts in Shabqadar, a town around 30 kilometres north of Peshawar.

“A soldier of the Frontier Corps and a policeman embraced martyrdom in an exchange of fire with militants in Mechani neighbourhood of Shabqadar Saturday morning,” a local police official said.

More than 50 suspected militants were killed in Pakistani military strikes on Friday and the two convicted militants were hanged after the government and military vowed a strong reponse to the school attack.

The hangings were the first to be carried out after Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif lifted a six-year moratorium on the execution of terror convicts two days after the army school was attacked.

Pakistan’s de facto foreign minister said the attack was a game changer in the country’s fight against terror, calling it his country’s own “mini 9/11”.

“This has shaken the entire Pakistani society to the core, and in many ways it’s a threshold in our strategy for countering terrorism,” , Sartaj Aziz said on Friday.

* Agence France-Press with additional reporting by Associated Press