Pakistan's military has killed at least 43 Taliban militants in precision airstrikes, Pakistani news outlet Dawn reported Thursday. The military offered up the death toll from the strikes as government forces stepped up a campaign to push fighters away from their stronghold along the border with Afghanistan.
Twenty-eight suspected militants were killed in North Waziristan's Shawal region and 15 in Gharlamai, Inter-Services Public Relations, the military's media wing, said. The reports emerged just two days after the military said it also killed 65 militants as it entered the final stages of its anti-Taliban offensive, code-named Operation Zarb-i-Azb, in addition to another 40 suspected militants Sunday.
The area is considered off-limits to journalists, so the military's account of events was unable to be independently verified, Anadolu Agency, a Turkish state-affiliated news agency, reported.
North Waziristan, a semi-autonomous northwest tribal region, has seen intense fighting between the military and the Taliban for several years. The government launched a full-scale military operation in the region in June 2014 following a Taliban attack on an international airport. The government's offensive led to the deaths of around 3,000 suspected militants.
The attacks in recent days follow a suicide bomb attack Sunday on a minister's office. At least 14 people were killed in that attack, believed to have been carried out by the Taliban.
Many militants in the region are believed to have fled to rugged mountainous regions in other parts of North Waziristan to escape government strikes. Many are thought to have taken refuge in Shawal Valley, considered a stronghold for al Qaeda. The region has been the site of repeated U.S. drone strikes this year that have resulted in the deaths of dozens of suspected militants, Dawn reported.
Pakistani security officials said nearly 2,900 militants have been killed so far, as the military has cleared more than 90 percent of North Waziristan of militants, Shanghai Daily reported. The final stage of the military's operation will focus on gaining control of remaining militant pockets.