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Air strikes kill 38 militants

Pakistani air strikes have killed 31 militants and a suspected US drone strike killed another seven, officials said, as local troops press a six-month offensive in tribal regions along the Afghan border.

The air strikes in the Tirrah valley of the Khyber region destroyed four militant hideouts and a suicide bomber training centre, said an army statement.

The military said several would-be suicide bombers were among the dead, without providing further details.

The operation in Khyber is aimed at militants who have fled a massive offensive in neighbouring North Waziristan that was launched on June 15. The army said the offensive has resulted in the killing of 1,200 militants.

Last month's school massacre in Peshawar - in which 150 people were killed, mainly children - is believed to have been launched from Khyber. The attack prompted Afghanistan and Pakistan to vow tougher action along the porous border.

Two Pakistani intelligence officials said US drone-fired missiles struck a militant compound in the Datta Khel area of North Waziristan, killing seven militants and wounding four. The compound, 330 yards from the Afghan border, was used by fighters loyal to Pakistani Taliban commander Hafiz Gul Bahadur as well as Uzbek militants.

They said Bahadur's men, who frequently launch attacks in neighbouring Afghanistan, and Uzbek fighters were among those killed in the strike. It was not immediately clear if Bahadur was in the compound at the time.

The covert US drone programme has eliminated several senior militants but has also resulted in civilian casualties, making it extremely unpopular among Pakistanis, who condemn it as violation of their country's sovereignty.

Later today, a bomb exploded near a volleyball court in the Kadda Bazaar area of the Aurakzai tribal region, killing four teenagers and injuring seven who were preparing to start a game, said senior government official Fazal Naeem Khan.

Mr Khan said some of the wounded are critically injured and the death toll could increase.

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