News

Militants fire on Pakistan International flight

An airline passenger has been killed when shots were fired at the aircraft she was in as it landed in northwestern Pakistan, officials say.

The attack late on Tuesday occurred ahead of a possible ground offensive against Islamist militants following weeks of airstrikes.

Two crew members were injured as the Pakistan International Airline (PIA) passenger flight from the Saudi Arabian city of Riyadh came under attack at Peshawar airport, provincial minister Shah Farman said.

At least five bullets fired from outside the airport hit the plane, police officer Faisal Kamran said.

Police and troops from the paramilitary frontier constabulary cordoned off the airport and a search for the suspects was under way in nearby localities, Kamran said.

The plane with 178 passengers and crew members on board was evacuated after landing, PIA official Shujaat Azeem said.

Flights were temporarily suspended after the attack, the second at a Pakistani airport this month, Azeem said.

At least 40 people, including 10 attackers, were killed when Islamist militants from an Uzbek group linked to al-Qaeda laid siege to the country's busiest airport in southern Karachi city on June 8.

Pakistani authorities responded with the launch of a military offensive against all militant groups hiding in their so-called safe havens in the country's tribal northwest.

The Peshawar attack took place hours after Pakistani fighter jets killed 47 militants in fresh airstrikes targeting their hideouts in troubled tribal regions, the military said.

Pakistani forces have killed nearly 350 Islamist militants linked to al-Qaeda since a large-scale operation was launched on June 15, according to the military.

The figure cannot be independently verified because the area is not accessible to civilians and journalists.

Meanwhile a suicide bomber struck in North Waziristan's Spinwam village, detonating a car bomb when he was intercepted on the approach to a checkpoint, officials said, killing two soldiers and a civilian.

The deaths bring to 12 the number of security forces killed in the offensive.

A military statement said troops stopped the suicide bomber 100 metres away from a checkpoint near a hospital and the action averted major casualties.

The Ansar-ul-Mujahedin militant group, a faction of the Pakistani Taliban, claimed responsibility, with spokesman Abu Baseer saying it was the start of a counter-offensive against Pakistani troops.

"It is beginning of our offensive and we will launch attacks against government and local tribesmen if they form an anti-Taliban force," Baseer told AFP via telephone from an unknown location.

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