War planes bombed suspected militant hideouts in Shawal mountains and eliminated 35 terrorists early on Wednesday morning, hours after local people said a US drone strike killed 20, mostly foreigners, in Dattakhel area of North Waziristan.

A senior security official said the jets targeted militants in the forested Shawal Valley.

According to an intelligence official, 35 militants were killed in air strikes carried out in Degan, Saeedabad, Manzarkhel and Dattakhel.

Over 35 militants eliminated by Pakistan airstrikes

He said the Shawal bombing had forced militants to flee their hideouts. Fifteen ‘Punjabi’ militants fleeing the bombing in pickup trucks were captured by security forces in Birmal and taken to Wana camp in South Waziristan.

“The bombing is having an effect. The militants are feeling the heat. These are the ones who fled the military operation in Miramshah and Mirali,” the official said. “It is a mixed bag of local and foreign militants,” he added.

Another 20, mostly foreigners, die in drone attack

Local residents said the US drone fired four missiles into a compound and a vehicle in Zoi Saidgai, about 45km west of regional headquarters Miramshah, killing 20 militants.

They said that 12 of those killed were foreigners of central Asian origin and eight local militants.

According to an official, the foreigners were members of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan.

A security official confirmed the drone attack which, he said, was carried out close to the Afghan border.

There was, however, some confusion over the timing of the two strikes.

The area is a stronghold of militant commander Hafiz Gul Bahadar, who once had a peace agreement with the government, but has now seen a spate of bombings by jets as security forces move towards Dattakhel.

Military officials said that 30 soldiers, including two officers, had lost their lives since the army launched the Zarb-i-Azb operation in North Waziristan on June 15. More than 400 militants were killed, the officials said, though there has been no independent confirmation about the claim.

Three soldiers died in an ambush near Boya on Tuesday and two others in a gunbattle with militants in Mirali on the first day of the ground offensive in what once was a militant hotbed, a security official said.

The military claimed it had cleared Miramshah and was now clearing Mirali in a phased manner.

Most militants have fled the town but fire-raids, including rocket and mortar attacks, continued, the official said.

Security forces are now moving on two fronts — westwards on Dattakhel road and eastwards in Mirali.

Though Mirali, like Miramshah, is now deserted, it still has remnants of militants here and there, sniping and attacking security forces, an official said, referring to the attack on Tuesday which resulted in the death of two soldiers.

More than 900,000 people have left North Waziristan. Several thousand others have taken refuge in Afghanistan.

According to Reuters, a high-ranking military official denied that the United States was responsible for the drone attack. He did not elaborate.

Foreign Office spokesperson Tasnim Aslam said the Pakistani military had no confirmation there had been a US drone strike.

Pakistan publicly condemns the US drones strikes saying they often kill civilians and are a violation of sovereignty.

But some officials, including a former president, have said the military has secretly approved them in the past.