Civilians among 45 killed as Pakistan military pounds militant bases | Asia| An in-depth look at news from across the continent | DW | 01.09.2010
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Civilians among 45 killed as Pakistan military pounds militant bases

At least 45 people have been killed in an airstrike in Pakistan's tribal region. Security officials also confirmed the deaths of civilians in the strikes targeting militant hideouts.

Pakistani Army in Khyber

Pakistani Army in Khyber

The officials said that Pakistani jet fighters targeted militants in the Khyber district bordering Afghanistan. Spokesperson for the Frontier Corps, Major Fazl Ur Rehman said that there were no confirmed figures about civilian deaths but 10 among those killed must be civilians. According to a senior security official, militants were using their families and other civilians as human shields. The militants were said to have been planning suicide attacks. Officials said that the strikes destroyed militant hideouts, a training centre, an illegal FM station and eight vehicles that were being prepared for suicide attacks.

Khyber as a strategic route

The militants belong to the Lashkar e Islam group which can be translated as the Army of Islam. The targeted militants could also include those who fled the Swat valley during a military offensive last year. The group is active in the Khyber district, close to the city of Peshawar, which has been the target of al Qaeda and the Taliban many times since last year. The group is also known to plan and execute attacks on NATO convoys traveling through the area. Most supplies passing from Pakistan into Afghanistan are taken through the Khyber district. Floods in Pakistan have worsened the security situation as many areas remain cut off.

Flood and war: a tough time for civilians

Flood and war: a tough time for civilians

The war against terror and civilian casualties

The US sees Pakistan as an important ally in its war on terror in Afghanistan. US officials believe that many Taliban and al Qaeda militants have fled Afghanistan since 2001. In 2009 Pakistan launched a major offensive in the border areas. Military operations in the border districts of Buner, Lower Dir and the Swat valley are believed to have triggered intensified militant activity. More than 3,500 people have died in militant attacks since last year and more than two million people have been displaced by the conflict. Civilian casualties have been a major fallout of the military offensives. This year in April, Pakistan army chief General Ashfaq Kayani made a public apology and issued orders to avoid such casualties in the future.

Editor: Thomas Baerthlein

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