Pakistani jets have bombed a militant stronghold in the northwestern part of the country today, killing at least 37 militants, according to the Associated Press. Meanwhile insurgents struck back, killing six Pakistani soldiers and wounding three others in a roadside bomb. Army officials say those deaths were the first military casualties in this operation.

Pakistan Army Zarb-e-Azb

Pakistan strikes North Waziristan

Army officials in Pakistan announced the “Prophet’s Sword” operation on Monday. They’re targeting the tribal rejoin of North Waziristan. There are many insurgent strongholds located in the area, which is near the border with Afghanistan. Militants train in the region and organize attacks on Afghan and NATO troops on the other side of the border. U.S. officials have been complaining to Pakistani officials about North Waziristan. The U.S. has carried out hundreds of drone strikes in the region.

In today’s airstrikes, the Pakistani military targeted six different militant strongholds in the Shawal region, which borders North Waziristan. They killed 27 militants in those strikes. In a separate incident, soldiers killed seven insurgents who were trying to escape from the town of Mir Ali in North Waziristan. Snipers killed three others near the town of Biran Shah while they were attempting to put down roadside bombs.

Pakistan commits thousands of troops

Military officials said they have been evacuating civilians along the borders with North Waziristan and the main cities. They also established areas for insurgents to surrender their weapons. The military said so far the operation was going as planned and that they had not begun any operations in civilian areas yet.

AFP is reporting that an unnamed military official said thousands of troops will be participating in the action, as many as 25,000 to 30,000. The official also reportedly said they will be trying to finish the operation as quickly as possible but that they didn’t have an exact time frame. He said it could take a few days or possibly longer.

Militants vow retaliation

A spokesperson for the insurgents sent a statement to the media warning that multinational organizations, foreign airlines and international investors should get out of Pakistan. The person said if they don’t, they would be considered government supporters and could be targeted. The spokesperson also vowed retaliations in Lahore and Islamabad. He said they would burn down Pakistani rulers’ mansions located in them. So far, the two cities have not seen the level of violence other cities like Karachi and Peshawar have seen.

A spokesperson for a group linked to the Taliban warned last week after their two deadly attacks on the Karachi airport that there would be more violence.