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Pakistani Military Targets Taliban After Deadly Raid On Air Base

  • RFE/RL

The Pakistani military has carried out air strikes against suspected militant targets near the Afghan border, a day after the Pakistani Taliban killed 29 people in a raid on an air base.

Pakistani officials said 16 suspected militants were killed in the bombing raids on September 19 in the Tirah Valley, which straddles the Afghan border and is a main smuggling route between the two countries.

The military action comes a day after Pakistani Taliban militants attacked the Badaber air base, just south of Peshawar, killing 29 people, including 16 worshipping in a mosque inside the military compound.

Police said on September 19 that they picked up around 50 residents living near the base on suspicion of helping the militants organize the attack.

Analysts say the assault was the deadliest ever militant attack on a Pakistani military installation, and is likely to make already strained ties with Afghanistan even worse.

Hours after the attack, Pakistan's military spokesman pointedly noted that communications intercepts showed the Pakistani Taliban gunmen were being directed by handlers in Afghanistan.

For years Pakistan and Afghanistan have accused each other of not doing enough to stamp out insurgents on either side of their long, porous border.

The office of Afghan President Ashraf Ghani issued a statement on September 19 to deny it had anything to do with the attack, saying claims it was "planned" or "controlled" from inside Afghanistan were baseless.

The Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack.

The militants also released a video on September 18 in which militant leader Khalifa Umar Mansur is seen sitting among the alleged attackers.

He said he was in charge of the attack and that the purpose was to avenge Pakistani military bombardment of mosques and the killing of civilians in tribal regions, as well as the humiliation of seminary students in cities.

He said the attack was ordered by Mullah Fazlullah, the chief of the Pakistani Taliban whom Pakistan says is hiding in Afghanistan.

Pakistan wants Kabul to arrest Fazlullah as he is accused of numerous of acts of terrorism in Pakistan.

With reporting by AFP and Reuters