Pakistani military strikes targets in northwest following school massacre, 59 militants dead



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ISLAMABAD — Pakistani jets and ground forces killed 59 militants in a northwestern tribal region near the Afghan border, the army said Friday, days after Taliban fighters killed 148 people — most of them children -- in a school massacre.

The violence at a school in Pakistan's northwest earlier this week stunned people around the country and sparked cries for retribution. In the wake of the violence the military has struck targets in the Khyber tribal region and approved the death penalty for six convicted terrorists.

The military said it had carried out air strikes and ground operations Thursday and Friday in the Khyber agency.

The military said its ground forces late Thursday killed 10 militants while jets killed another 17, including an Uzbek commander. Another 32 terrorists were killed by security forces in an ambush in Tirah valley in Khyber on Friday as they headed toward the Afghan border, the military said.

Three security forces were wounded in the ensuing shootout, it said, adding that the "fleeing terrorists left behind bodies of their accomplices."

Khyber agency is one of two main areas in the country's northwest where the Pakistani military has been trying to root out militants in recent months. Khyber borders Peshawar, where the school massacre happened, and militants have traditionally attacked the city only to quickly flee into the tribal region where police can't chase them.

The other area is the North Waziristan, where the military launched a massive operation in June.

Army chief Gen. Raheel Sharif late Thursday signed death warrants of six "hard core terrorists" convicted and sentenced to death by military courts, the army spokesman Gen. Asim Bajwa said in a Twitter post.

It was unclear when the military planned to hang the six men, but authorities generally move quickly once death warrants are signed. Such executions are usually carried out at prisons under the supervision of army officers and then the bodies are handed over to relatives for burial.

There was no information on the men or the crimes for which they were convicted.

The news comes after Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Wednesday announced that he would lift a moratorium on executions in terrorism-related cases. The government has not yet carried out any executions.

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