HANGU: At least nine suspected militants were killed on Saturday when gunship helicopters pounded insurgent hideouts in Thall village in Hangu district, security officials said.

“Gunship helicopters engaged the hideouts after confirmed reports of the terrorists' presence,” said one of the unnamed security officials.

Officials said the military launched the attack after confirming reports about the presence of militants in Thall.

They spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorised to speak to the media.

According to sources, gunship helicopters pounded suspected militants’ positions in Tora Wari and Dar Samand areas of Thall, following which nine militants were killed whereas several hideouts were destroyed.

Sources added that gunships continued to hover after the shelling whereas panic spread in the area.

Hangu borders the northwestern tribal region of Orakzai, one of Pakistan's seven lawless districts on the Afghan border considered to be the hub of Taliban and Al Qaeda-linked militants.

These were the second air attacks against Pakistani Taliban militants this month in retaliation at strikes by insurgents, which have derailed peace talks.

Earlier this week, at least 35 militants were killed as fighter jets targeted suspected insurgent hideouts in three different tehsils of the North Waziristan tribal region.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had authorised the strikes, according to a source in his office.

The Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), an umbrella grouping of numerous militant factions, has been waging a bloody campaign against the Pakistani state since 2007, carrying out a number of bomb and gun attacks, often on military targets.

Peace talks between the Taliban and the government, announced on January 29, stalled this week due to a recent surge in insurgent attacks and a claim by a Taliban faction on Sunday that it had killed 23 kidnapped soldiers.

Government mediators have set a ceasefire as a precondition for another round of talks but Shahidullah Shahid, a spokesman for the TTP, on Friday blamed Islamabad for the deadlock and asked the state to declare a ceasefire first.