MIRANSHAH: Four suspected militants were killed Friday as Pakistan's armed forces hit Taliban targets in a third day of action in a restive tribal area close to the Afghan border.
The military used mortars and helicopter gunships to pound suspected Taliban hideouts in North Waziristan, one of seven tribal districts where insurgents have strongholds.
Friday's operation comes after two days of fighting in the area which began on Wednesday with air strikes and ground clashes which left at least 71 suspected militants and four security personnel dead.
"Security forces fired mortar shells from Miranshah fort on the adjacent areas of Machis camp, Kharwani and Sukhail Wazir Friday morning, followed by pounding suspected militant hideouts with gunship helicopters," an intelligence official based in Miranshah told AFP.
Miranshah is the main town of North Waziristan and Machis camp a neighbourhood on its outskirts which was once a camp for Afghan refugees but is now thought to be used by militants.
The official said four suspected militants were killed and later security forces carried out a door to door search, arresting five others.
The violence comes as another blow to peace talks between the government and the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), which have made little progress since they began in February.
Washington has long pressured Islamabad to carry out an operation to stamp out militant hideouts in North Waziristan, from where they launch attacks against US and NATO troops in Afghanistan.
But it was not clear if the latest military action was the beginning of such an operation. The armed forces carried out similar strikes in January which ended abruptly after a few days.
There have been a number of insurgent attacks on security forces in recent weeks and the air raids and the current strikes fit a pattern of the armed forces responding by hitting the insurgents' bases in the tribal areas.