Pakistan bombs militants on Afghan border

Jets strike North Waziristan tribal region, killing at least 32 people, according to military

Pakistani fighter jets bombed suspected militant hideouts in the troubled tribal region of North Waziristan near the Afghan border on Wednesday, killing at least 32 people, according to military sources.

The bombing mainly targeted the town of Mir Ali, a military officer and two intelligence officials told The Associated Press. They spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations.

"Fighter jets started bombing militant positions early on Wednesday," said a senior military official in Miranshah, the capital of North Waziristan, speaking to Reuters. "Before the launch of the air strikes, we had confirmed intelligence information about hideouts of the militants and their top commanders."

Another military source told Reuters at least 32 people "including important commanders" had been killed.

The claims could not be independently verified. The lawless tribal area is off limits to foreign journalist and the Pakistani army didn't release any statement confirming the strikes or the death toll.

Residents of the area, home to many Al-Qaeda-linked militants, said dozens of houses used as hideouts by the militants had been targeted. It was not immediately clear if any civilians were killed.

One resident, who identified himself as Saeedullah Khan, said the army had also been using artillery fire since early morning.

"We heard big bangs," he said. "I saw some houses flattened."

Disagreement over how to handle the Taliban insurgency has soured relations between Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Pakistan's powerful army, which has been pushing for a major military offensive against militants.

Sharif has been trying to engage the Taliban in talks but negotiations have failed repeatedly since he came to power a year ago. It was unclear whether Sharif had authorized the latest air strikes overnight.

Despite Sharif's insistence on talks, the military has carried out a series of brief air raids in the region. It was unclear if the latest air strikes signaled the start of a broader military campaign against the Taliban.

Wednesday's bombing in North Waziristan came a day after police confirmed that a Chinese tourist had been abducted in the area.

Abdullah Bahar, a militant commander, claimed responsibility for the abduction and said that his Shehryar Mehsud group, which operates under the Pakistani Taliban, would use the Chinese tourist to try to secure the release of their comrades in Pakistani custody. It was not clear, however, if the abduction was sanctioned by the central command of the Pakistani Taliban.

Al Jazeera and wire services

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