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Pakistan bombs militant hideouts in North Waziristan for first time in years

PESHAWAR, Pakistan -- Jets bombed Pakistan's restive North Waziristan tribal region for the first time in years on Tuesday after a wave of suicide bomb attacks targeted security forces.

Militant hideouts were struck in the air force's first major offensive in the region since 2007, when the Pakistani government signed a peace deal with local Taliban leaders.

North Waziristan is considered a stronghold of al Qaeda and other militant groups. The Pakistani military said the strikes on the Mir Ali region were "pinpoint strikes."

"The jets targeted sanctuaries of the local and foreign militants in Mir Ali area of North Waziristan on the basis of intelligence information," a senior military official told NBC News.

Pakistani military officials said 23 militants were killed. 

However, villagers told NBC News that residential areas had been hit and 15 civilians had been killed.

Mohibullah Khan, a resident of Esori village, said the jets started heavy bombardment early Tuesday and flattened several houses in Esori, Hasu Khel and Haider Khel.

Another villager, Sharifullah, said the majority of the villagers spent their night in the open as their villages were bombed.

Local officials imposed a curfew and told people to stay indoors until further notice.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, a military official said the operation had featured "pinpoint strikes" and added that reports of civilian deaths were "not established."

Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif sparked speculation that a military operation was imminent by canceling his trip to the World Economic Forum in Davos on Sunday after the Taliban attacked an army convoy and killed 20 soldiers, Reuters reported.

On Monday, a blast near Pakistan's military HQ also killed 13 people and injured 24 others.

NBC News' Alexander Smith and Wajahat S. Khan and Reuters contributed to this report.

 

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