Pakistani Forces Kill Six in New Offensive Near Afghan Border

A paramilitary soldier stands guard at the site after two army personnel were killed by attackers on a motorcycle in Karachi, Pakistan, July 26, 2016. REUTERS/Akhtar Soomro

By Asad Hashim

ISLAMABAD, Aug 22 – Pakistani security forces have killed six people in a remote northwestern valley near the Afghan border in a new offensive against Islamist militants in the area, the military said.

All six of those killed in the offensive in the Khyber region were “terrorists”, the military said in a statement late on Sunday. Reuters was unable to independently verify their identities as access to the area is restricted.

The army launched air and ground operations in the Rajgal valley, about 90 km (60 miles) west of the city of Peshawar, last week, the latest leg of an offensive against the Pakistani Taliban and its allies that began in 2014.

Pakistan has for years been battling militants who want to impose a strict version of Islamist law in Pakistan, while quietly backing others who are seen as furthering Pakistani objectives against old rival India and in Afghanistan.

The Pakistani offensive has squeezed some groups into small pockets of territory, while others have fled over the border into lawless areas of eastern Afghanistan.

Nevertheless, the militants are still capable of launching deadly attacks across Pakistan.

A bomb attack on a crowd in a hospital courtyard in the city of Quetta on Aug. 8 killed more than 70 people, the deadliest attack in Pakistan since 2014.

The military says it has killed at least 31 people in coordinated ground and air strikes in the Rajgal area since Aug. 16.

The attacks would “effectively check and guard against terrorists movement along high mountains and all-weather passes”, the army said.

Pakistan and Afghanistan have accused each other repeatedly of not doing enough to stop the movement of militants across the border.

Pakistan has been battling the Pakistani Taliban, an umbrella organisation of hardline Islamist groups, since its inception in 2007.

The Pakistani Taliban are allied with but separate from the Afghan Taliban.

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