Updated: 03/02/2014 15:28 | By Agence France-Presse

Pakistan military kills 5 alleged militants in northwest

The Pakistani military on Sunday deployed a helicopter gunship to kill five militants blamed for a bomb attack on a polio vaccination team which left 12 dead a day earlier.


Pakistan military kills 5 alleged militants in northwest

Soldiers arrive to cordon the security compound during a funeral of their colleague who were killed in roadside bomb attacks in the Lashora area of Jamroud Tehsil, in Khyber tribal district, on March 1, 2014 - by A. Majeed

The air strike also came a day after the Taliban announced a month-long ceasefire aimed at reviving stalled peace talks with the government, a move met with scepticism by analysts.

Eleven paramilitary soldiers and one child were killed and 11 others were wounded when three roadside bombs targeting the vaccination team in the lawless Khyber district exploded Saturday -- the latest attack on teams trying to combat the crippling disease.

The military responded with an air strike.

"At least five militants involved in the attack on the polio team were killed in a helicopter gunship strike at their hideout in the Bara area of Khyber," a senior security official told AFP on condition of anonymity.

The militants belonged to a local little-known Islamist group called the Abdullah Izam Brigade headed by Mullah Temanchy, the official said. 

The group, which has claimed attacks on NATO trucks that carry goods from Pakistan to Afghanistan, is not affiliated with the umbrella Pakistani Taliban. 

Two local intelligence officials confirmed the strike and the death of the militants.

Dialogue between Islamabad and the Pakistani Taliban that began last month was suspended after the militants killed 23 soldiers. 

The military responded with a series of air strikes that have left more than 100 insurgents dead, according to security sources.

Militant attacks and threats have badly hampered campaigns to stamp out polio in Pakistan, one of only three countries where the disease remains endemic. 

Militant groups see vaccination campaigns as a cover for espionage, and there are also long-running rumours about polio drops causing infertility.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), Pakistan recorded 91 cases of polio last year compared to 58 in 2012. Victims are left dead, paralysed or with withered limbs.

The WHO has warned that Peshawar, the main city of the northwest, is the world's "largest reservoir" of polio.

Afghanistan and Nigeria are the other countries where the disease persists.

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