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Apr 24, 11:21 AM EDT

Army: Airstrikes in Pakistan tribal region kill 37


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KARACHI, Pakistan (AP) -- Pakistani warplanes attacked insurgent hideouts in the tribal region near the Afghan border, killing 37 suspected militants and wounding 18, army officials said Thursday, as authorities hold peace negotiations with the Taliban.

The airstrikes pounded two suspected hideouts in a remote area of Tirah Valley in the Khyber tribal region, three military officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to journalists.

There was no way to independently confirm the report as the tribal area is off limits to journalists.

Two officials said the military acted on intelligence that militants responsible for some of the latest terror attacks in Islamabad and elsewhere hid there. They said that apart from the airstrikes, ground troops also took part in the operation, which was still underway Thursday night in Tirah Valley.

An army officer said officials suspected the militants for being responsible for a bombing at an outdoor fruit and vegetable market on the outskirts of Islamabad that killed 22 people.

The airstrikes come as Pakistan's government tries to negotiate a peace deal with the Pakistani Taliban in efforts to end years of fighting that has killed thousands of people. The local branch, known as Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan or TTP, had declared a cease-fire, but said last week they wouldn't extend it as peace talks go on.

Meanwhile Thursday, a bomb targeting prominent police officer Shafiq Tanoli exploded in downtown Karachi, killing the officer and three others, police official Pir Mohammad Shah said.

The explosion in the port city appeared to be a suicide bombing, Shah said.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack. Shah said Tanoli, who had survived several attempts on his life, was targeted for his active campaigning against terrorists.

Tanoli was meeting friends and relatives at a shop close to his home when the bomb went off, police officer Nasir Lodhi said. Lodhi said that police suspected a teenage boy had detonated the explosives tied to his body.

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Associated Press writers Riaz Khan in Peshawar, Pakistan, and Munir Ahmed in Islamabad contributed to this report.

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