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80 killed as Pakistan bombs militant hideouts after Karachi airport attack

MIRANSHAH, Pakistan -- Pakistani fighter jets launched air strikes Sunday against militant hideouts in the country's troubled northwest, killing at least 80 insurgents including those linked to a brazen attack on Karachi airport, the military said.

But local security officials put the death toll far higher, saying that about 150 militants died in the air strikes, which primarily targeted Uzbek fighters in a remote area of tribal North Waziristan.

Among the dead were insurgents linked to last Monday's all-night siege of Karachi airport that killed 38 people, including 10 attackers, and all but destroyed a tentative peace process between the Pakistani Taliban (TTP) and the government.

One official said the alleged Uzbek mastermind of the Karachi attack had been killed in the strikes.

The military assault targeted the mountainous Dehgan area, some 25 kilometers (16 miles) west of the main town of Miranshah in North Waziristan, a stronghold for Taliban and al-Qaida-linked militants on the border with Afghanistan.

“Today at about 0130 hours (2030 GMT), a number of terrorist hideouts in Dehgan, Datta Khel in North Waziristan were targeted by jet aircraft. The number of terrorists killed in early morning strikes has risen to 80, mostly Uzbeks,” a military statement said.

“There were confirmed reports of presence of foreign and local terrorists in these hideouts who were linked to the planning of the Karachi airport attack.”

Local security officials in Miranshah, who spoke to AFP on the condition of anonymity, put the death toll far higher than the official toll.

“Up to 150 people were killed during the strikes early Sunday. These strikes were carried out based on confirmed reports about the presence of Uzbek and other militants in the area,” an intelligence official said.

Another security official said that “the number of the killed people was even more than 150.”

The Pakistan military has not confirmed the higher figure.

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